ISLAMABAD: The government of Pakistan would be forced to revert to a stricter coronavirus lockdown if people continued to ignore the standard operating procedures (SOPs), Information and Broadcasting Minister Senator Shibli Faraz warned Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference here in the federal capital, Faraz noted that while the coronavirus pandemic had so far caused less damage than the government expected, the number of cases were rising because people were not following the SOPs to prevent against the respiratory illness.
“Coronavirus [cases] have started rising rapidly in Pakistan,” Faraz said. “The coronavirus pandemic has caused less damage than we expected,” he added, noting that the government was closely monitoring the situation in a “planned and organised manner”.
“On a global level, the world’s largest economic powers and major health infrastructures have not been able to cope with the coronavirus pandemic,” he observed.
“We, on the other hand, are a poor country, in which 75% people depend on business and daily wages,” he added. “Look at India, they enforced a strict lockdown but people went out and the condition there is dire.”
The federal minister appealed to the people to follow the SOPs to prevent themselves from the deadly virus. He warned that the illness could affect anyone without discrimination.
The minister said the coronavirus would wreak havoc if people did not adhere to the steps for safety and that then they would be “responsible” for it.
“As per our analysis and strategy, thank God that very few people died of the virus and a lesser number of people contracted” the illness, as opposed to the government’s forecast, he mentioned.
Faraz said any strategy by the government or Prime Minister Imran Khan with regard to the coronavirus response was focused on making sure the group that is economically weak in Pakistan were not drastically impacted by the pandemic.
“Projects initiated to hand out cash to the deserving people, such as the Ehsaas Programme and others, [were] to help poor people maintain their livelihood because when business halts then these people suffer,” Faraz said.
“This is not a time of man-o-salwa [special gifted food], therefore, our first priority was these people.
“Our second priority was that if we were to continue this strategy on a sustainable level, we had to let the business operations resume, which we did in a phased manner and eased the lockdown,” he added, noting that the wheel of economy had started moving a little bit.
The minister said the PTI government was starting to go beyond the process of stabilising the economy — “what we got in our inheritance” — when the pandemic hit.
To save lives and have the economy running at the same time, a code of conduct, or the SOPs, were set up but “people did not follow the SOPs… the majority of people did not follow the SOPs”.
“We can prevent ourselves from the virus if we heed the precautionary measures just like we use umbrellas to avoid getting wet in the rain. If we don’t use an umbrella, we will get wet,” he said.
Faraz warned that if people did not heed the precautionary measures, they would contract the deadly virus. Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) have also started testing positive for the coronavirus, he noted.
“If the SOPs are not followed, the government would be forced to revert to a stricter lockdown,” he added, noting that the lockdown on Saturdays and Sundays would be strictly implemented.