Prime Minister Imran Khan said in a live televised address that Pakistan’s situation is different from China and Europe amid COVID-19, he also warns nation for dire consequences if SOP’s not followed.
During his address, the PM apprised the nation on the decisions made regarding the lockdown in Pakistan to contain the COVID-19 during the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting held today (Monday).
PM Imran spoke of the country’s response and the current situation regarding the coronavirus, noting that the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) met every morning and consulted everyone, including health experts from Pakistan and around the world, on every step.
“Since day one when we got to know that the coronavirus had started spreading in Pakistan, we imposed a lockdown following a national security committee meeting.
“We observed the conditions in Chinese city of Wuhan and in Europe when the virus started spreading and we were seeing how the world was responding. But at that time, when we had discussions and meetings, I was very clear on the path Pakistan had to take.
“Pakistan’s situation is different than that in China or Europe,” he said, noting that he had earlier informed the nation that 25% of the country’s population was below the poverty line, which “means that nearly 50 million people in our country do not eat two full meals a day”.
“After doing calculations, we figured out that there are 25 million people who are daily wagers and who get paid weekly and whose households had to remain hungry if they did not earn for one day,” he added, saying those families comprised 12-15 million people in total.
The labourers and daily-wagers, he added, were part of the informal, unregistered economy.
“The virus spreads at a fast pace [and] imposing lockdown is not the cure to it… It only slows the spread of the virus. The lockdown helped reduce pressure on doctors and health workers in hospitals,” he said.
“A lockdown is different for different people in Pakistan as well. There are people who live in palaces and there are those who live in slums — their approaches to the lockdown were different.
“Some 30-35% people in Karachi live in katchi abadis [slums]. What effect would the lockdown have had on them? On the one hand, we had the wealthy elite, whose attitude was completely different and who were demanding lockdown because there was a lockdown in Europe.
“On the other hand, we had the poor people and households where seven, eight or 10 people live in one room, the taxi- and rickshaw-drivers, the daily-wagers.
“I did not want a lockdown like the one that was imposed in Pakistan [but] due to the 18th Amendment, the provinces had the authority and took their own decisions due to pressure.
PM Imran said doctors, elite, and the poor all had diverse opinions but it was the downtrodden ones of the society who did not have a voice.
“But in hindsight, I should not have stopped businesses and construction because we had to balance it. Coronavirus is not going away until a vaccine is not formulated. We have to live with it,” he said.
He also said, “This coronavirus is not going anywhere and we will have to live with it while striking a balance between poverty and lockdown.”
There will be dire consequences of returning to normal life without taking any preventive measures against the virus, the PM added.
PM Imran said that people in India are dying due to lockdown and virus is still spreading in the neighbouring country.