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Lockdowns to be Lifted Gradually: Imran Khan

by Newsweek Pakistan

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In briefing, Pakistan’s prime minister outlines responsibilities of Corona Relief Tiger Force

The ongoing lockdowns imposed by the government to curb the spread of coronavirus in Pakistan will be gradually lifted in the coming days to mitigate the economic impact of the disease, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday.

“We need to lift the lockdown so that people can get jobs. But we have to be careful because all of our efforts will go in vain if people don’t take precautionary measures,” he told a press briefing in which he delivered an address to the volunteer Corona Relief Tiger Force, which is to become operational in large parts of the country from today.

“It is this [implementation of precautionary measures] where the volunteer force would prove most useful,” he said, adding that the volunteers would go to union councils and publicize the government’s guidelines for maintaining social distancing and adhering to the standard operating procedures issued to various industries.

He said the members of the Corona Relief Tiger Force would help those in need, as the “administration alone cannot do everything.” He said he had decided to form the force to help the government overcome the challenges posed by the pandemic. “The entire world is being forced to take steps that haven’t been taken in the past 100 years,” he said.

Outlining the responsibilities of the Corona Relief Tiger Force, the prime minister said the volunteer force would help strike a balance between saving people from the virus and saving them from hunger and unemployment.

“Volunteers will register all those that have lost their jobs due to the lockdown at their respective union councils,” he said, noting that even though there was a web portal for the registrations, not everyone was aware of it and the Force would help apprise people of the need to register for it.

He said the volunteers would also monitor the disbursements of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Program and provide the Center with feedback on their effectiveness.

“Most importantly, if you see hoarding anywhere, don’t take action yourself but tell the administration. They will take action,” he added.

Khan took pains to clarify that the Force was purely voluntary, and would not receive any salary, nor would it be involved in any kind of fundraising. “This is purely a voluntary initiative,” he said.

Special Adviser to PM on Youth Affairs Usman Dar reiterated his briefing from earlier in the day, praising the pilot project conducted in Sialkot district and the efforts of the Force in ensuring social distancing guidelines were being followed. He said the Force was also monitoring the provision of essentials in Utility Stores that had been subsidized by the government to ensure there was no shortage or price inflation. He said the Force was also involved in distribution of ration among the impoverished.

Special Assistant to P.M. on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza, meanwhile, said that 17,000 of the people who had volunteered for the Corona Relief Tiger Force were members of the medical community. “No one really knows how long this disease will last […] everyone needs to play their role,” he said, adding that medical volunteers would be given specific roles so they could help the government in implementing standard operating procedures related to the test, trace and quarantine methodology.

“Doctors will also volunteer for telehealth initiatives so they can give advice to patients over the phone,” he said.

The prime minister concluded the address by thanking the Corona Relief Tiger Force volunteers for offering their services during a particularly trying time for Pakistan. “As we ease lockdowns, it is very essential that the public be made aware of the SOPs they must follow in their every day life,” said Khan. “This is because if we follow the SOPs properly, we can take the country out of the current crisis,” he said, adding that the country could restore employment and health if all guidelines were followed.

He also urged the district administration to help the members of the Force, and ensure they were taken care of. “The more you guide them, encourage them, the more they will help you,” he said.

Pakistan on Monday crossed 20,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 5,590 recoveries and 462 deaths. Nationwide, there are presently 14,134 active cases of the virus, with a fatality rate of 2.3 percent and a recovery rate of 27.7 percent.

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