Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday announced another two-week extension in an ongoing lockdown following rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the country.
"We, after consulting all the provinces, have decided that the ongoing lockdown will continue until April 30," Khan told a news conference in the capital Islamabad after a meeting of the National Coordination Committee -- a body formed to deal with the coronavirus crisis.
However, he said, the government had decided to reopen several "low-risk" industries, including construction, agriculture, e-commerce, paper and packaging and others to resume the business activities, and to stem a deepening economic meltdown caused by the coronavirus crisis.
"I totally understand the hardships being faced by the poor due to the lockdown. That's why we have decided to move forward with a policy, which can not only ensure social distancing but also reduce the economic burden on the low-income class," he went on to say.
Khan also directed the authorities to ensure the smooth harvesting of wheat, the country's main crop, which has commenced this week. There would be no ban on movement of machinery and labor for the wheat harvesting.
Thanking the masses for following the restrictions, Khan contended that the lockdown had worked well to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
"The number of coronavirus cases, and deaths are way lesser than our projections due to the lockdown," Khan said, adding the COVID-19 cases and the deaths were 30% and 50% respectively of the government's projected numbers.
Last month, Pakistan had imposed a countrywide lockdown closing down shops, markets, shopping centers, and government, and private offices except for emergency service, in a desperate move to curb the surging COVID-19 cases. It, later announced a two-week extension in the restrictions until April 14.
The number of novel coronavirus cases in Pakistan has risen to 5,716 with more than 340 confirmed over the past 24 hours, officials said.
Traders to open markets
Traders, however, rejected the extension, and announced to resume their businesses from Wednesday.
Trade associations from three provinces -- southern Sindh, southwestern Balochistan, and northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) -- on Tuesday announced that they were going to reopen their shops, and markets. Whereas, traders from Punjab -- the country's most populous province -- has demanded partial reopening of businesses.
"The prolonged lockdown has not only badly hit our businesses but the country's poor class," said Ilyas Bilour, a former president of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
"We are going to resume our businesses while observing safety procedures from tomorrow [Wednesday]," he said.
In Karachi, the country's commercial capital, the city's traders alliance also announced reopening of businesses from Wednesday.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.