He said, while addressing the nation on Monday, that the number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan has gone down. On July 26, 2020, Pakistan’s death toll from COVID-19 was the lowest in three months. “I am very pleased to announce that the pressure on our hospitals has considerably decreased.”
The steps taken by Pakistan have helped the country control the number of coronavirus cases “by the grace of Allah”, he said. “We still have challenges and we need to proceed with caution.”
The virus started in China and reached Europe, people sitting here were looking at Europe. We were under pressure that we should take similar measures that were being taken in Europe. Initially, we tried and even imposed the lockdown but we are a poor nation.
“It was our government that understood that our situation is different from that in Europe and China,” he remarked. “We were the first government that understood that when there’s poverty in your country, people live in shantytowns. We have no record of 70% to 80% of informal labourers.” Keeping the situation in mind, my team decided that we have to impose a smart lockdown.
“We were the first government to talk about it because we understood that if we can’t impose a curfew in a country like ours, for which I was criticised initially,” the premier said.
We couldn’t impose a curfew for much longer because there are many daily wage earners in Pakistan such as rickshaw drivers and those who sell things on push carts. They work hard every day just to feed their children.
“These labourers wouldn’t have been able to survive if you locked them at their houses and they would’ve died of hunger.” And we saw this happening in many countries. In India, its government imposed a complete lockdown and imposed a curfew on a four-hour notice. This lead to an increase in poverty and hunger. Migrant labourers, who had come from villages to work in the cities, were stuck in the cities. Some had to walk hundreds of miles to reach their homes.
This lockdown is difficult to impose. It is feasible in rich and well-to-do neighbourhoods. For instance, “I can live easily in my home if a lockdown is imposed. We have money and can live easily. But in areas where people have no money, it is very difficult to live in lockdown.”
Today, the world is realising this. The world is accepting that complete lockdown is impossible. So, we took this decision very soon, he added. After taking the decision, we implemented a smart lockdown and did not impose any restriction on our agriculture sector, so our food supply doesn’t get interrupted. We even opened the construction industry so daily wagers could get jobs, otherwise the government didn’t have enough money to give everyone.
Many people criticised us for putting peoples lives at risk and told us that our steps will lead to an increase in the coronavirus deaths. The risks were there, but we decided to save our people from dying from hunger. “We didn’t want to push our people to die from hunger in order to save them from corona. We took a risk, but today by the grace of Allah, I can tell decision was right,” the premier added.
“Another thing that we did, which my government is really proud of, is our Ehsaas programme,” PM Khan remarked. “We knew that when we imposed a lockdown, it would have its effects and poverty will increase, the poor were most affected. Like in India, all the surveys proved that the top 15 to 20% were not affected by the lockdown. But the lower class was totally crushed. We started the Ehsaas Program to save such people.”
He added, “in a very short time, there’s no precedent, not in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world that no one has ran such a big programme in such short time that transferred so much money to so many people” that too in a transparent manner.
The smartlockdown that we imposed was implemented effectively. We identified the clusters, and imposed lockdown there. It was effective and we could help those who were stuck in those areas, he said.
We all need to understand that the world is still learning about the coronavirus. We still haven’t been able to understand the virus yet, PM Khan added.