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Pakistan Extends ‘Lockdown’ Till May 9

by Newsweek Pakistan

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Planning minister says country will commence ‘smart lockdown’ measures from Saturday (today)

The federal government on Friday announced it was extending the ongoing ‘smart lockdown’ by two weeks to May 9, with Planning Minister Asad Umar warning that if the situation continued to deteriorate, stricter measures would need to be implemented.

“Today, we have decided to extend restrictions or lockdown for another 15 days till May 9,” Umar told journalists while briefing them on the latest decisions taken at a meeting of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC). He said the new extension had been decided upon through consensus between the federal and provincial governments, though some provinces had demanded longer or shorter durations.

According to Umar, the NCOC had agreed to implement the ‘smart lockdown’ from Saturday (today). “Prime Minister Imran Khan and all chief ministers have given final nod to the system, which will be implemented with the help of provincial governments,” he said, adding this would track and trace infections at the tehsil level and help isolate and quarantine viral hotspots.

The planning minister said the National Coordination Committee on COVID-19 would oversee the trace and track system, but provincial governments, information technology institutions, and civil and military organizations would also be involved in the process. “This is a complete national response formed by the government,” he said.

The minister said the government was working on increasing the number of testing laboratories and isolation wards to effectively contain coronavirus but warned that the month of Ramzan, commencing today, could prove decisive.

“We reviewed the trend of COVID-19 and reached the conclusion that Ramzan is a decisive month, because if we continue to adopt precautionary measures we will be able to head toward normalcy after Eid and more businesses will be opened,” he said. “However, if people show an irresponsible attitude, we will have to enforce stricter restrictions,” he said, adding that people should continue to practice social distancing and avoid leaving their homes for non-essential activities.

Umar announced that the NCOC meeting had decided there would be no scheduled power outages during iftar and sehr timings throughout Ramzan. He also updated the press on the Ehsaas Cash Distribution Program, saying Rs. 69 billion had been distributed among 5.7 million families thus far.

Pakistan currently has 11,940 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with doctors warning that the actual numbers are likely in the hundreds of thousands and the country’s information is limited by its testing capabilities. Despite this, the government has eased restrictions on several sectors and even allowed mosques to resume congregational prayers.

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