ISLAMABAD - Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday said that the government is walking on tightrope in maintaining balance between a lockdown to prevent spread of COVID-19 and ensuring people do not die of hunger and economy does not collapse.

In a tweet, he said in the subcontinent, with a high rate of poverty, we are faced with the stark choice of having to balance between a lockdown necessary to slow down and prevent spread of COVID19, ensuring people don’t die of hunger and our economy doesn’t collapse.

“In the subcontinent, with a high rate of poverty, we are faced with the stark choice of having to balance between a lockdown necessary to slow down/prevent the spread of COVID19 & ensuring people don’t die of hunger & our economy doesn’t collapse. So we are walking a tightrope,” he tweeted.

The prime minister further said that the government has locked down the educational institutions, malls, marriage halls, restaurants and other places of congregation. “But, to stop the devastation of the lockdown we have kept our agri-sector open & now we are opening up our construction sector,” he said. The construction industry employs a large chunk of the daily wager workforce.

A day earlier, the premier had announced a special incentive package for the construction sector, saying that it was necessary to maintain ‘a balance’ between the lockdown and economic activity.

He said that in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, a relief package for the construction industry would mitigate the impact by offering more employment opportunities. On the other hand, the opposition parties are criticising the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan for not taking decisive measures to curb the spread of coronavirus outbreak.

Meanwhile, the nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients has crossed 2,700 with 839 cases in Sindh, 1,072 in Punjab, 175 in Balochistan, 347 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 197 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 75 in Islamabad and 12 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The virus has so far claimed 40 lives in Pakistan, while 130 patients have fully recovered. The country had only tested 68 people out of one million while the situation was even worse in India and Indonesia with 33 and 26 respectively. 

On Friday, the World Health Organisation warned that the low testing rates in Pakistan, India and Indonesia risk leaving the authorities blindfolded about the extent of coronavirus transmission in their countries. “Without testing, it’s like moving blindfolded,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of WHO, said during a briefing.