Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday said with Pakistan like other parts of the world hit by the second wave of Covid-19, it is not going for a complete lockdown but would only shut the non-essential sectors, including public gatherings, to save its poor people as well as economy from the severe consequences.

“With the high level of poverty and the lessons learnt from the first wave of Covid-19, we cannot afford the lockdown of businesses and factories, where people are employed,” he said while addressing the Country Strategy Dialogue (CSD) on Pakistan organized by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Separately, talking to reporters in Lahore, the prime minister Imran Khan said amid the sharp surge in Covid-19 cases with 50 plus deaths during the last 24 hours, the government would not allow the opposition to hold any public gathering to risk the people’s lives and aggravate the situation. “Over 50 deaths have been reported during the last 24 hours. This has surged from eight, nine to 50 just in two weeks… they are risking the people’s lives. It will not help them. How so many gatherings they hold they will not get any NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance),” the prime minister Imran Khan said while talking to the media here during his daylong visit.

He said considering the Covid-19 surge, the government had also called off its own public gatherings until the downturn of coronavirus curve. Even the Islamabad High Court had also ruled against the public gatherings just because the virus spread fast with the people coming in close proximity, the prime minister Imran Khan added.

Imran Khan said the pressure is increasing on health facilities and the government was also concerned about the Covid threat to doctors, nurses and other health workers particularly in the cities. He also urged the nation not to give up precautions to keep up the success the country had achieved during the first wave. “But I fear, our hospitals will come under pressure and economy will suffer too, if we did not adhere to the precautions,” he said and appealed to the people to keep observing anti-Covid standard operating procedures (SOPs) as they did at mosques, markets and factories. He urged the Ulema and other opinion makers to take the responsibility of saving the nation form the deadly disease by pursuing the people to follow the SOPs.

The prime minister Imran Khan said the government had decided not to close down factories and businesses in order to avert the hunger related deaths while protecting the people from the virus. He, however, strictly advised the factory owners, shopkeepers and others to ensure observance of the SOPs, particularly wearing the face masks, which, he said, was the easiest tool to contain the pathogen.

The prime minister Imran Khan, in response to a question about the recognition of Israel, said Pakistan did not face any international pressure on the issue and still stood at the position taken by the Founder of the Nation Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah in 1948.

Speaking on the country’s foreign policy, Imran Khan said owing to the present government’s successful foreign policy initiatives, being appreciated at the world level, Pakistan’s acceptance had significantly increased internationally. He in that respect also referred to the country’s historic successful diplomatic initiatives such as exposing India at the world level, positive role in the Afghan peace process, and improved relations with Afghanistan

The prime minister Imran Khan said Pakistan, which was asked to “do more” in the past, was now being appreciated by the world, including the United States for its positive role for achieving peace in the region, including Afghanistan. Pakistan enjoyed goods relations with Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, he added.

To another question, Imran Khan described the overseas Pakistanis as the country’s assets and hoped that they would invest in the two mega development projects of Ravi City, Lahore and Bundle Island, Karachi. He said the government had launched a crackdown against land grabbers in Lahore, which had the backing of some political parties in the past. “You will soon hear the cries of Qabza Mafia in Lahore,” he remarked. The prime minister Imran Khan said the government would soon take a big action against land grabbers and land encroachers in Lahore.

To a question about price-hike, he explained how mafias and cartels had manipulated the situation to make money out of the shortage and low produce of the commodities, particularly wheat, caused by untimely rains and bad weather over the last two years due to climate change.