Semantic games

PM stuck with definition of things

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While there is a virtual lockdown in almost all of the country, the prime minister on Tuesday still was adamant on sticking to his position of not going for an all out ‘curfew.’ As is his wont, he again gave a tutorial to a select group of senior anchorpersons in Islamabad on what was the difference between a lockdown and a curfew. That was something quite avoidable.

Keeping the semantics aside, the  government must be appreciated for thinking of poor people as Prime Minister Imran Khan announced to earmark Rs200 billion for labourers who will face the brunt of nationwide lockdown in the wake of  coronavirus pandemic. The package includes a sum of Rs200 billion for labourers and Rs100bn worth of tax refunds to support export and industry. Rs100bn are for small and medium industries as well as farmers. Rs50bn have been set aside for utility stories to ensure availability of essential food items. Construction industry too shall be offered incentives soon.  And where experts had calculated a cut of up to 40 rupees in the petroleum products, the government announced a cut of Rs15. As for utility bills, those using up to 300 units or less of electricity will be able to pay their bills with a deferred payment plan over the next three months. Whereas gas consumers incurring a bill of Rs2,000 per month or less shall be able to avail three month installment plan. Medical kits and other equipment are being procured at a rapid pace, we were told and it was and is a huge concern as reports come in from hospitals even in big cities that medical staff were endangering their lives by working without safety gear. We already know a young doctor has died in Gilgit-Baltistan due to infection he caught while treating coronavirus patients.

The package offered by the federal government is a good step. It shall help the lower strata of society who shall be severely impacted by the lockdown the duration and intensity of which who we have no way of knowing at this stage.

And going beyond the scope of definitions, we should hope that though a little late this lockdown should help us flatten the deadly curve. In Punjab it was observed on Tuesday that people made light of it and wandered about in the streets and parks. It will need to enforce the lockdown just like the province of Sindh did and held people and framed cases against them. With seven deaths and under 1,000 infections we are doing far better than Europe and the US and it is only caution that can keep the numbers down.