A health official collects a swab sample from a man to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus inside a van along the roadside in Islamabad on November 26, 2020. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: The Pakistan government has ruled out shutting businesses and factories to protect livelihoods as the country struggles with the resurgence of virus cases.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said the government has no plans to close down businesses despite the uptick in cases in recent weeks. “We don’t want to lead people to death due to hunger while saving them from coronavirus,” the Pakistani premier said. However, PM Khan made an urgent appeal to the public to adhere to social distancing and mask regulations to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Resurgence of virus

The second spike in cases has been blamed on social gatherings and political rallies which the government banned recently, however, officials are reluctant to resort to the strict lockdowns imposed during the peak of the pandemic in April and May. Asserting that the country’s economy is now on a positive trajectory, Khan said the first wave of coronavirus could have devastated Pakistan’s economy but the nation’s support helped it emerge stronger. He urged the nation to join hands with the government to defeat the second wave of coronavirus.

New single-day highest cases recorded

Pakistan reported 3,306 coronavirus cases and 40 deaths during the last 24 hours – making it the new highest single-day rise in virus cases in the last four months. With the latest cases, Pakistan’s tally for confirmed cases has reached 386,000 while the total number of fatalities has reached 7,843 since the virus arrived in late February.

Dr Qaisar Sajjad, secretary general of the Pakistan Medical Association, has said that the second wave of coronavirus was proving to be “far more lethal”. Health experts have warned that the situation is “critical” as the intensive care units across Pakistan are reaching capacity.

Saving lives and livelihoods amid COVID-19

Imran Khan insisted that the country could not afford another lockdown and closure of businesses. “Pakistan would only shut non-essential sectors, including public gatherings, to save its poor people as well as economy from the severe consequences,” he said. “With the high level of poverty and the lessons learnt from the first wave of COVID-19, we cannot afford the lockdown of businesses and factories, where people are employed,” Khan said while addressing the Country Strategy Dialogue on Pakistan 2020 organized by the World Economic Forum (WEF). Pakistan’s focus from the beginning has been on smart lockdowns to strike a balance between lives and livelihood.

Khan recently also appreciated the improvement in the country’s textile sector despite the pandemic. Faisalabad’s textile industry has witnessed a massive economic growth following a high demand of export items for the first time in last 30 years. A recent report also indicated that Pakistan’s decision to ease pandemic restrictions early helped the country’s exports emerge stronger than other South Asian countries.

Green jobs

Although the “developing countries have been hit the hardest” due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Pakistan “carved out a silver lining through ‘Green Stimulus’, aimed at nature protection and creation of green jobs” even in these challenging times, Khan wrote in an article for WEF. During the pandemic lockdowns, Pakistan “created around 85,000 COVID-19 safe green jobs – planting trees, protecting nature and improving sanitation – which are planned to be scaled-up to 200,000” by the end of this year.