Prime Minister Imran Khan Tuesday announced that the construction industry had been allowed to operate with immediate opening of basic things for the industry in the first phase however, lockdown of public places would remain for the next two weeks.
The prime minister, while giving a media briefing after the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting said that a decision had been taken to allow the construction industry to operate from Tuesday in phases, and an ordinance would be introduce on Wednesday to provide a stimulus package for it.
He said that as the construction industry entails low risk of corona spread, and provided employment opportunities to daily wage earners and low-income group, there was 98 percent consensus on what industries would be allowed to operate.
The prime minister said that this was also decided that there would be no hurdle for wheat harvesting.
After the prime minister asked the Minister for Industries to explain about the industries that are going to be opened, Azhar said that on the directives of the prime minister low-risk industries were identified and there was consensus among Center and the provinces, and these included; (i) chemical manufacturing plants; (ii) e-commerce exports; (ii) e-commerce locals few necessary items; (iv) software development and programming; (v) papers and packaging units and industries whose labour is present at their premises; and (vi) cement plants, fertiliser plants, mine and minerals.
He further stated that dry cleaners and laundry services, bricks, plants nurseries, agriculture making units, glass manufacturing, veterinary services and all exports industries with the condition that trade development authority would confirm their orders, books shops, and stationary.
He said that all those industries would be opened with the SOPs that have been provided to the provinces last week.
He said that that there were two areas where provinces and the federation had different view points, electricians, plumber and vendors.
As far as construction was concerned, the minister said that "we have proposed that construction sector would be opened in phases with basic things such as cement, bricks, pre-fabricated material should be opened immediately.
However, there was difference on opening of construction sites as some provinces wanted immediate opening, while others disagreed to the idea.
This is an ongoing process, corona is a developing situation, and before Ramzan it would be further reviewed, and if needed these would be opened.
The prime minister said that another issue, he stated was about bringing stranded Pakistanis back from abroad, however, the issue was that there was concern among provinces after the spread of virus from those who came from Taftan and abroad, about allowing people without proper testing of coronavirus.
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Zafar Mirza said that based on best international practices, standard operating procedures (SOPs) involving World Health Organization recommendations have been prepared and forwarded to the provinces for opening of industries as well as construction industry, and shops, and employers would be responsible for implementation of the SOPs.
The prime minister said that the religious scholars would be invited for consultation to devise a national response with regard to Ramzan prayers besides ensuring that there would be no spread of coronavirus.
The prime minister also added that another danger was with regard to smuggling of wheat and dollars because wheat prices have been increasing in the international market and warned that an ordinance envisaging strict punishment for those involved in the smuggling and hoarding would come soon.
He added that not the managers but owners would be held responsible for any hoarding in the approaching month of Ramzan.
The prime minister said that Ehssas Programme was above political interference and so far 2.8 million people have been disbursed Rs14 billion and this programme would continue.
He added that the government was fully aware of the problems faced by the people due to lockdown but added that there were less cases against the projection based on the global trend because of lockdown.
As per projection based on global trend, 190 deaths were expected but good thing was that so far deaths were half against the projection but this did not mean to become complacent rather to more strictly follow the precautionary measures.
Prime Minister said that if the situation worsened hospitals would be facing immense difficulty.
Dr Zafar was asked to give briefing on the coronavirus situation.
He said that there were around two million confirmed cases worldwide and over 120,000 people had died.
He said that so far 51,432 tests were conducted and 5,716 cases have been confirmed, and the total deaths were 96 with highest number of 14 in a day.
There are 26 cases on ventilators.
We were expecting that the total number of cases would cross 18,000 but cases are much lower at the moment but this does not mean we become complacent.
He added that the expected deaths on April 14 were 191 but there were less than 100 deaths.
He said that as per estimates, the cases are higher in Sindh compared to Punjab.
He said that for all the shops, and industries as well as construction industry, international best practices standard operating procedures with World Health Organization recommendations have been prepared and forwarded to the provinces, and employers would be responsible for implementation of the SOPs.
Federal Minister Asad Umar said that decisions are being taken after coordination between the federal government and the provinces as well as the AJK and the Gilgit-Baltistan, despite being from different political parties.
He said that this was the 9th meeting of the NCC and the NCOC, which placed recommendations before the NCC adding the NCC has been meeting on a daily basis.
Meanwhile, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Dr Moeed Yusuf said that overseas Pakistanis were facing difficulty and on March 21 international flights were suspended with only one object of making preparation with the provinces for their testing on arrival, and keeping them in quarantine.
He added that on April 4 gradually international flight operation was opened and in the last week 2,000 passengers were brought, and from next week six international airports would remain opened to bring 2,000 more Pakistanis would be brought back, and after April 20 bringing back Pakistanis from abroad would be increased by three times. He said that as per the government estimates that were 35,000 Pakistanis who wanted to come back and the government would bring them back. There are some Pakistanis in Afghanistan and we will try to bring them back before Ramzan, he said. He said that there are five districts in Iran from where essential items would be imported from next week.