ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said it was a "mistake" to enforce a strict coronavirus lockdown as it aggravated the economic situation, even as the number of COVID-19 infections crossed the 72,000-mark in the country on Monday.
According to the Ministry of National Health Services, 2,964 new infections surfaced over the last 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally of coronavirus to 72,460.
"Lockdown is not a solution as it can only slow down. So it was a mistake to shut down business in the country," Khan said, after chairing a National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting here on Monday.
Khan said he was against the lockdown from the beginning but provincial governments took the decision to do so.
He said the economy suffered and if the lockdown continued the government would lose more revenue and poverty would increase.
"I was clear from the beginning (on) what we should do when other countries starting locking down cities.
I thought we cannot do it as we have 120-150 million people who are poor," he said.
The rich demanded a complete lockdown as they have big houses and resources to live without any need to go out but the poor people face problems and opposed the policy, Khan said.
"Now we know that lockdown is not a solution and even rich countries are opening up," he said.
The cricketer-turned-politician said that people should learn to live with the coronavirus and they can also help the government to deal with it by following guidelines.
"Coronavirus will not go away until the vaccine is discovered.
We need to learn to live with it and we can live with it if we follow precautions," he said.
He said the 1 million volunteers of the government's coronavirus force will raise awareness of the need to follow guidelines.
Khan said that the government was planning to open up tourism as people attached to the sector would suffer once the summer tourist months are over.
He announced that the mandatory quarantine for incoming Pakistanis would be stopped.
Under the new policy, every passenger will be allowed to go home after giving samples for testing and they will be asked to isolate at home if they test positive.
Minister for Planning Asad Umar on Sunday had said the Lockdown option was always on the table but not under active consideration.
Umar heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) which recommends to the government to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
The Ministry of National Health Services reported that 2,964 new infections surfaced over the last 24 hours, taking the nationwide tally of coronavirus to 72,460.
While the number of COVID-19 cases crossed the 72,000-mark, the death toll stood at 1,543 after 60 more deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.
According to the health ministry, 28,245 cases have been diagnosed in Sindh, 26,240 in Punjab, 10,027 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 4,393 in Balochistan, 2,589 in Islamabad, 711 in Gilgit-Baltistan, and 255 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The ministry showed that 26,083 patients have been recovered so far from the virus.
The authorities have conducted 561,136 tests, including 14,398 in the last 24 hours.
The month of May registered nearly 52,000 new coronavirus cases as the tally surged from 69,474 to 17,699 cases, while the death toll rose from 408 to 1,483.