Imran Khan addresses the people in Islamabad. File/ AFP
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan says he is relaxing more coronavirus restrictions implemented in March, including a ban on tourism, as authorities reported 60 more COVID-19-related deaths.
Imran said on Monday Pakistanis must learn how to live with the coronavirus, as lockdown is not a treatment for the disease. He was addressing the nation after a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC).
In its meeting, the NCC decided to maintain a complete lockdown on weekends to curb the coronavirus and to not change shop timings. It also eased the restrictions for Fridays, sources told local media.
Chaired by Imran, the meeting discussed whether or not the countrywide lockdown should be extended or relaxed, as coronavirus cases continue to surge across Pakistan.
The premier also announced that all the Pakistani nationals stranded abroad will be repatriated to the country.
“I want to talk about overseas Pakistanis. I’m worried about our labourers in the Gulf countries. They send valuable remittances to us.”
“We have decided that we will bring all of them back. This is good news for them and their families,” Imran said.
He, however, stated that the government will test them all on arrival but that they will have to quarantine themselves if they are infected.
His blunt televised remarks drew criticism on social media when he said the virus would continue to spread, causing more deaths if people did not observe social distancing rules. Pakistan has registered 1,543 fatalities amid 72,460 cases.
The country has witnessed an increase in coronavirus-related deaths since it eased lockdown ahead of the holiday of Eid Al Fitr that marks the end of Ramadan.
Addressing the frontline healthcare workers fighting against Covid-19, the prime minister said that while his thoughts and prayers were with them during their “jihad” against the virus, they needed to understand that lifting the lockdown was necessary, as the country has more than 50 million people who live below the poverty line.
Imran said that the country’s tourism industry should be revived once again, stating that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) governments will soon issue SOPs to allow reopening of the sector.
“I think that tourism should be revived because that sector provides jobs to many in GB and elsewhere,” he said.
Special Assistant Dr Zafar Mirza has said only 28 per cent of the available ventilators are currently being used for coronavirus patients.
During a chat with reporters, he dispelled the impression that there was a shortage of hospital beds, ventilators or other facilities for COVID-19 patients. “There are 723 patients who are in a critical condition and 201 of them are on ventilators,” he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said that although he had “nothing to gain from politics,” he had persevered in his political struggle for 23 years to fulfil his responsibility towards the Pakistani people.
He stood briefly when his name was announced and then seated himself again before the others did in a breach of protocol.
Two main opposition parties, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), have lashed out at Prime Minister Imran Khan for yet another outburst against opponents in his latest televised address to the nation.
The ministry stressed in a statement that its aim to continue expanding the scope of testing nationwide to facilitate the early detection of coronavirus cases and carry out the necessary treatment.
USGS said the quake struck at a depth of 51.4 kilometres (32 miles) off the eastern tip of Timor Island, which is split between East Timor and Indonesia.
President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has sent a cable of condolences to His Majesty King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein of Jordan, on the passing of Dr Faisal Al-Yasin, the father of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah.