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ISLAMABAD: Ruling out the possibility of lockdown, Prime Minister Imran Khan stated on Friday that the country can not afford it but lockdown could be enforced in hotspot areas.

Addressing the Tiger Force, the PM said the country suffered Rs800 billion revenue losses in taxes because of lockdown, and now as the budget making process was underway "have to reduce expenditure."

The prime minister said the government made repayment of Rs5,000 billion on account of interest in the first fiscal year for the loan taken by the previous government. "We cannot go back to lockdown because the country cannot afford it and enforcement of the SOPs is imperative to stop rapid spread of coronavirus," he said adding that implementation of the SOPs had been necessary to reduce the load of patients in hospitals.

The purpose of the tiger force is to create awareness among the masses about the consequences of coronavirus and help the local administration.

The prime minister said mangers had been entrusted with the responsibility to ensure implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The tiger force, if succeeds in creating awareness among the people, Covid-19 would not spread rapidly, he added.

PM Khan said future role of the tiger force was to make sure implementation of the SOPs, and the government would issue the tiger force, cards to facilitate them to have access to hotspot areas, and provide information about those who have lost employment during the lockdown.

The prime minister said the government would require tiger force's help to deal with locust in collaboration with the administration.

The other area where the tiger force would be required to participate is tree plantation campaign along with the local administration for green Pakistan.

The government would also require tiger force's help to get feedback about shortage of essential commodities at the USC outlets and about those involved in hoarding, he added.

Additionally, tiger force would inform the government about those who were not following the SOPs, so that the action could be taken against them, the prime minister said.

The premier said Britain and Pakistan were the only countries who had sought help from volunteers during the challenge of Covid-19.

So far, one million tigers have been registered and 175,000 have been working with the government.

He said development agency such as the Asian development Bank (ADB) had praised Pakistan for rapid disbursement of cash transfer to 16 million people.

He said Pakistan was the first country that decided to open the mosques during the month of Ramzan with the cooperation of religious scholars. The prime minister said there was no outbreak of coronavirus from mosques because of strict following of SOPs during Ramzan.

Khan said initial steps taken by the government had saved the country from worse, and although deaths had witnessed a spike in recent days and touched over 1,700, there was spike in number of cases.

The prime minister said in Brazil, the US and Britain daily fatalities were between 1,000 to 2,000. The prime minister said the government would regularly inform the tiger force about the hotspots, and might enforce lockdown in hotspot areas in the coming days.

The prime minister said the country was standing at a very critical juncture, and if people follow the SOPs, Pakistan might not face as grave a consequences as some other countries had faced due to the coronavirus.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020