ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan while addressing the nation on Friday to explain and defend the government’s decision to ease the lockdown — imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus in Pakistan — said: “We have to live with the virus this year.”
The premier said that he would like to especially address the medical community, because is he aware of how alarmed they were at the announcement of an ease in curbs, given the pressure it would create on medical facilities.
“I assure you my government has full realisation of what sort of pressures you must face with regard to your families and children.”
He said it is important for the medical community to understand how a country tackles a problem of this magnitude, the choices it has to make, and the repercussions the decisions have on the whole society.
“If someone had told me with certainty that we need to keep the country locked down for three months and then we will defeat the virus. we could have done it. We would have dedicated all our resources to fighting it and would have tried to ensure food supplies to homes with out volunteers.
“But all the medical experts in the world are saying there are no signs of a vaccine this year […] so this means the virus isn’t going anywhere,” said the premier.
He said the rationale behind a lockdown was to prevent the spread of the virus as it is highly contagious. “But will the virus end with a lockdown?”
The premier then spoke of countries where a second surge of the virus is being witnessed, such as China, South Korea, Singapore, and Germany.
“We have to live with this virus. This year we have to make do with the virus.”
He said he is asking the medical community whether they really think the lockdown can stay enforced for another two months.
Comparing Pakistan’s economy with that of developed countries, the premier once more spoke of how while the others had announced hundreds of billions of dollars worth of stimulus packages, Pakistan had only managed to allot $8bn.
He said those countries do not have the kind of poverty that Pakistan does.
Providing statistics based on a labour force survey carried out in 2017 and 2018, he said that there are 25 million people who are daily wage workers such as labourers.
“There are 25 million workers who depend on their daily wage or weekly wage […] to feed their families they make use of this income.
“These are the people who were forced into their homes during their lockdown. They had no other means [to earn a livelihood].”
The premier said that consequently, now 150 million people have become affected by the lockdown.