PM extends lockdown for two weeks, but restrictions will be partial
Allows several industries to open: New strict law to crack down on hoarders, wheat smugglers
The government on Tuesday decided to extend the lockdown for two weeks but the restrictions would be partial in nature as it said there would be no constraints in the rural areas due to the agri sector while some industries, especially construction, were to be opened from tomorrow (April 15).
Announcing the decision after a National Coordination Committee meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the lockdown was relaxed as the coronavirus spread did not reach the point according to some predictions.
He, however, added that the cinemas, educational institutions, sports centres and other public places would remain closed to stop the possible coronavirus spread.
The details of low-risk industries/businesses on which all provinces have agreed to open are: Chemical, e-commerce, software programming, paper and packaging, plant nurseries, units producing agri machinery, glass, veterinary services, export industries with a condition of availability orders, books and stationery shops.
However, there was no agreement on the likes of vendors, tailors and barbers as Sindh showed reservations over these.
Moreover, the construction sector would be opened in phases as such brick kilns as well as cement and crushing plants and their retailers are allowed to function.
Meanwhile, the provinces could not reach consensus on construction sites, as Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were of the opinion that the process should start immediately. But others expressed their reservations.
The provinces are free to make the decisions according to their needs, Imran said.
Terming the lockdown as a success, he said the reported coronavirus cases remained well below the forecast – 30 percent of the prediction – while the deaths too were 100 at a time when it was feared that the death toll would reach 190.
Imran said ordinances were being introduced soon to curb wheat smuggling and hoarding carrying exemplary punishment.
The prime minister thanked the people for following the guidelines during lockdown as they went through a tough period, but added that the government was introducing relaxations because of the rise in joblessness.
The poor, daily wagers, small shop owners and others had been badly affected by lockdown, said the prime minister.
About the Pakistanis stranded abroad, he said the government was making efforts to bring them back with necessary precautions as they could trigger coronavirus spread in the country.
Earlier, the federal cabinet decided to extend the countrywide lockdown till April 30, but the final approval would be given by the National Coordination Committee.
The decision was taken during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Meanwhile, Firdous Ashiq Awan – special assistant to the prime minister – said a law being introduced against the hoarders and to curb the practice of profiteering.
At a media briefing after the cabinet meeting, she said Prime Minister Imran Khan directed Ehsas Programme – under which cash handouts are being to the deserving families – Chairperson Sania Nishtar to ensure better coordination with lawmakers.
Imran praised Sania and also the district administration for executing the handout programme, she added.
Firdous said the federal government in coordination with the provinces would overcome the coronavirus pandemic.
The cabinet meeting, she said, deferred the decision on increasing the pension for the EOBI beneficiaries; however, the meeting exempted the agents involved in the Ehsas Programme from withholding tax.