People buy garments after the government relaxed the weeks-long lockdown that was enforced to curb the spread of the coronavirus, at a market in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Wednesday, May 13, 2020. (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed)

Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry has said that the government will have no option but impose a blanket lockdown if the coronavirus positivity rate touched 14 per cent.

According to a local media outlet, the information minister said that positivity rate in Lahore has also crossed 22 per cent.

At least 5,480 new COVID-19 infections were recorded while 151 people lost their lives on Thursday, with the nationwide positivity rate being recorded at 9.61 per cent.

With Eid just round the corner, the government is contemplating measures to arrest the soaring infection rate through restricted movements, such as a ban on interprovincial travel and “stringent smart lockdowns”.

Sources said that the interprovincial travel will remain suspended from May 10 to 17 as per the proposal. A decision in this regard will be taken on Monday in a high-level meeting of the government officials.

Sources also said that the government may opt for a “stringent smart lockdown in specific cities that have a high positivity rate”. Whether this will be a blanket lockdown or not is still up for debate.

Similarly, the government is thinking about shutting down airports ahead of Eid in a bid to reduce domestic travel during the holiday period. This measure, if approved, will allow curbs on movement to stop the spread of the deadly disease. However, it’s just deliberation at this point.

The policy flip-flop on the lockdown on Wednesday has fueled the ambiguity surrounding the government’s strategy to contain the spread of coronavirus amid soaring infections and death rate.

On Wednesday, an internal memo of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) was leaked to the media that suggested the imposition of a blanket lockdown in 20 cities, including Lahore, Islamabad, and Hyderabad, from next week.

“Two weeks city-wise lockdown in districts and cities with high disease prevalence is tentatively planned with effect from 2 or 3 May 20201,” the NCOC letter had said, asking the admins concerned to take appropriate measures.

However, the notification was retracted after a day, adding to the confusion surrounding the lockdown. Earlier, there were reports that PM Imran Khan would okay a strict lockdown in districts with high positivity rate in a meeting of the National Coordination Committee last week.

However, the PM ruled out the imposition of the lockdown at that point, saying his government could go for shutting down the cities in case the situation continued to grow worse.


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