ISLAMABAD - The ‘smart lockdown’ is a viable option of active intervention of the government to launch targeted tracking, tracing, testing and quarantine mechanism in coordination with national security apparatus to halt the spread of COVID-19 by sealing the areas of infected cluster population only while easing restrictions on economic activities under the safety guidelines.

Almost 50 days have passed since the (partial) lockdown is imposed in Pakistan. People in general and business community in particular are showing signs of worry, restlessness and fatigue. More or less the national economy is also facing the same situation. It is not possible to go on indefinitely like this. Probably, no country can go like this when the time period of coronavirus persistence is not known. No doubt, the unprecedented global pandemic of coronavirus has ravaged the economy of developed countries. But it has made the underdeveloped and developing parts of the world faced with numerous challenges. Before, they used to fight against the curse of poverty. Now they alsohave to fight against the spread of deadly virus by imposing restriction on businesses and economic activities. Thus the current circumstances of prolonged lockdown have made the survival difficult for poor segments of the society. But on April 24, the government has decided to convert the existing lockdown into a ‘smart lockdown’ on the patterns practiced by the western countries. As it is almost impossible to exactly predict that for how long the virus would persist in the country. Primarily, the ‘smart lockdown’ means closing selectively the areas experiencing the outbreak of pandemic. The purpose of a ‘smart lockdown’ is to provide relief and ease restriction to the labor class and the lower strata to survive economically along with fending off the virus.

Therefore, the government has come up with a balancing strategy of ‘smart lockdown’ to help the weaker segments to earn their routine livelihood while isolating the coronavirus cases and their contacts to contain the disease. It also allowed the economy to function smoothly with guidelines of preventive measures.

A recent research of Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) titled ‘Opting for a Smart Lockdown in Pakistan’ has suggested that “We need a policy that, at the same time, contains the infection and also allows some basic level of economic activity.”

The PIDE COVID-19 Bulletins is an initiative of research launched by the Institute in response to the current pandemic. It analyzes the impact of the lockdowns on the economy.

The research also proposed that the procedure of smart lockdown involves tracking and identifying the area of infected persons and their contacts and isolating them for a period of time. “So, it is not as if there will be no lockdown, but it will need to track and isolate the infection”, it added.

Under the ‘smart lockdown’ those areas would be closed where the outbreak has taken place while certain economic activities would be allowed to operate. So that the poor segment of the society might not fall prey to hunger and extreme poverty.

Talking to APP, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Senator Prof. Dr. MehrTajRoghani said that the cases of coronavirus and their contacts are hunted while the areas of the infected persons were cordoned off to halt the spread of virus. She said, “Pakistan can’t afford a complete shutter down lockdown due to daily wagers and poor segments of the society. And this is due to the fact that actually neither the advanced countries nor we know about that for how long the COVID-19 would persist.”