Police pakistan shopkeepers Karachi
A police officer uses a megaphone to disperse shopkeepers, who gathered to reopen their shops at a closed electronics market, as the lockdown continues during the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Karachi, Pakistan April 27, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Islamabad: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced easing the coronavirus lockdown in Pakistan under strict health guidelines with effect from May 9, 2020.

Addressing the nation on state-run television after chairing a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) the prime minister said the decision was taken keeping in mind the situation in the wake of the spread of COVID-19 at home, in the region and around the world.

Our prime concern behind the decision is to reduce economic burden on the labour and working classes. Daily wage labourers and low-income groups as well as small businessmen and individuals with limited income are the worst-affected class of society and we must support them in this difficult hour, the prime minister said.

Khan was accompanied by the members of his cabinet and aides on health, economy and poverty alleviation.

He reiterated easing the lockdown would be implemented from Saturday and it was not going to be a free-for-all resumption of daily life.

We need to be extra-cautious while returning to normal life during this partial ease in lockdown, said the prime minister, calling upon the nation to follow all the standard operating procedures (SOPs) to battle coronavirus. It is our collective responsibility to act on these SOPs, he appealed.

Major decisions

According to the six major decisions made with consensus and in consultation with the provinces, construction industry (pipe and paint, ceramics, aluminum and electric cable) will be allowed to open their businesses.

Secondly, all the small markets and shops both in urban residential localities and the rural areas were allowed to open their businesses. Shopping malls and supermarkets however will remain closed.

Thirdly, small markets and selective businesses will remain open after Sehri until 5am.

The fourth decision was the closure for two days in a week of all businesses and shops, except those dealing with food and medicines. According to Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, the decision was taken to give a break to law-enforcing agencies and police who were doing round-the-clock duty to implement lockdown in the country.

The fifth decision was opening of the designated Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) in public sector hospitals. This was because there were complaints from some quarters that patients suffering from other diseases were not being examined at emergencies, said Asad Umar.

The last decision was to extend closure of schools until July 15.  Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood said another meeting would take place on June 1 to review if the coronavirus situation allowed opening the schools before July 15 or not.

The decision regarding resumption of public transport was delayed because provinces disagreed with allowing public transport to come on roads and expressed fears it might further spread the virus.