NCOC allows several industrial and commercial entities to reopen
Labourers wait for customers alongside a street during a government-imposed nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Karachi. AFP
A review of the Covid-19 outbreak along with the enforcement of restrictions and its fallouts was undertaken at the NCOC with all 4 provinces, AJK and GB.
It was felt that the restrictions need to be extended but certain relaxations related to low-risk economic activities should also be considered. This is to be done with a view to minimising the financial hardship that the restrictions have caused for the lower income segment of society.
In this regard, it was mutually decided that all the industries, services and retail of all essential items shall continue to operate. This includes all industrial and commercial entities that are part of the supply chain of food items, medicines, pharmacy, agriculture, fuel, media, banks and philanthropic organisations.
The transport of all goods in the country shall also continue to take place without interruption. However, the existing closure/ban on areas of congregation like schools, marriage halls, cinemas, restaurants etc shall remain in place. The restriction on inter provincial travel shall also continue.
On the recommendation of NCOC, the following categories of low risk economic activities were also agreed by the provinces, AJK and GB to be allowed to operate subject to adherence of SOPs:
• Chemicals Manufacturing
• Ecommerce for Export (Business Process Outsourcing, Call centres)
• Ecommerce for Local/Delivery Companies (specified items)
• Software Development/Programming
• Paper and Packaging
• Industries with Labour within Premises
• Cement Plants
• Fertilizer Plants
• Mines & Minerals
• Dry Cleaner and Laundry Services
• Horticultural and Botanical Nurseries
• Manufacture of agricultural implements and machinery
• Glass Manufacturing
• Veterinary Services
• All export Industries (Subject to verification of orders from TDAP)
• Bookshops/Stationary (Either home delivery or stand-alone shops)
It was also recommended to the provinces, AJK and GB that individual shops of electricians, plumbers, carpenters, tailors, street vendors be allowed to open. There were a variety of opinions on this issue and it is recommended that the provinces decide on this issue as per their own judgment and circumstances.
On the issue of the construction sector, there were a variety of opinions that were tabled. NCOC has recommended that the sector be opened in sequence/phases with the low risk activities being recommended to open in the first phase starting from 15th April 2020. It has been recommended and agreed upon in the meeting that the following supply chain of construction can be opened from the 15th of April:
1) Cement Plants (Already open)
2) Brick Kilns
3) Stone Quarries
4) Bitumen Plants
5) Prefab Material Manufacturer
In the light of the variety of opinions on resumption of construction activities and also the phasing/sequencing of this exercise, it has been recommended that the provinces should exercise their own judgment, as per their own circumstances and conditions, on the opening of construction sites in the public or private sector and its sequencing and geographical locations.
The opening of the retail outlets/stores of the essential construction materials will naturally be associated with the specific decision by each province to open the construction sites. The construction activities related to the federal PSDP shall be reactivated.
The safety SOPs with regards to the prevention of the spread of Covid-19 for general industries and construction sector were circulated to the provinces and entities during the preceding weeks. It will be the responsibility of the employer to ensure adherence to the SOPs.
The SOPs regarding congregational prayers during Ramzan are being devised in consultation with Ulemah of all fiqh.
The government continues to strive to bring back Pakistanis stranded abroad in the safest possible manner. This week, 2,000 stranded Pakistanis will return from different parts of the world. After detailed consultations between the federal and provincial governments, it has been decided that 6,000-8,000 passengers will be brought back from next week.
Arrangements are also complete to bring back Pakistanis stranded in Afghanistan through our land borders. The goal remains to continue increasing our capacity of intake so that all Pakistanis wishing to return can do so as soon as possible.
In view of the financial hardships being faced by the public as a result of the restrictions, the NCOC will continue to assess, review and recommend the sectors of economic activity that can be considered for opening up. The risk profile of each sector, international guidelines and practice, local working conditions and enforceability of SOPs are considered.
Since the country and the globe is faced with a situation that is developing, periodic reviews shall continue to be undertaken. The need of the hour is to balance and calibrate policy to address the risk of Covid-19 outbreak with the financial hardships faced by the lower income segments and middle class.
The above recommendations and guidelines were endorsed at the NCC session held today.