ISLAMABAD                -           Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar on Tuesday urged maintaining a balance between controlling the spread of COVID19 and keeping the economy running and warned that no law or police can stop people from coming out to the street if they wouldn’t get the basic necessities.

“Nobody is arguing and there is no country in the world which is saying that they should not impose restriction or lockdown, but if there are too many restrictions and people are unable to get their basic necessities then no matter how many laws you apply or how much police you deploy you cannot stop people from coming out.”

 The Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said this during a joint press conference with Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza.

He said that today (Wednesday) the 6th meeting of National Coordination Committee (NCC) will be held with Prime Minister Imran Khan in chair to finalize a uniform strategy regarding lockdown and restrictions.

Regarding lockdown Asad Umar said that the decision makers, not only in Pakistan but around the world, will have to look that how to maintain a balance between preventing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping the economy running. On one hand you have to stop the spread of the disease to save your citizens from deaths, and on the other hand you have to be careful to not to create a situation where the economic burden is too high, which leads to the spread of hunger and poverty in the entire society.

If you don’t keep the balance and say we won’t have a lockdown at all, the disease will spread very fast and people will start losing jobs because they will be too sick. On the other hand, if you enforce too strict a lockdown, people won’t get food and then there is no way they will not come out on the streets. This way the decision of lockdown will be counterproductive and the efforts to control the spread of disease will fail.

For better coordination among all the stake holders at operation level National Command Centre had been established. First meeting in National Command Centre was held here, he said adding that representatives of federal ministries and provinces have been placed in the command Centre. Similarly, for two-way communication, the representatives of the NCC have also been placed with the chief secretaries of all the provinces, Asad Umar said. Security institutions are also part of the NCC and a Lieutenant General has been made its chief.

The Minister said that Utility Stores Corporation (USC) has been given Rs50 billion to ensure supplies of essential commodities and further measures were underway to fulfill the needs of the nationals living in far-flung areas of the country. Umar said that the government has created a mechanism through the NCC and the National Command Centre to monitor utility stores throughout the country.

Regarding the economic stimulus package, the planning minister said that 12 million families which covers one third of the country’s population will be given Rs12,000 under the relief mechanism. Earlier it was decided that the money will be provided to the deserving families in four different installments, however now it has been decided that the relief will be provided in one go.