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India & Pakistan may reopen some crucial industries amid Covid-19 lockdowns

India & Pakistan may reopen some crucial industries amid Covid-19 lockdowns
Despite strict quarantine measures due to the coronavirus pandemic, India and Pakistan are planning to partially open up some parts of their economies to cushion the financial impact of shutdowns across the region.

In India, which is under a 21-day lockdown, millions of people have been left without work. The World Bank has forecast the country’s economic growth to drop to 1.5 percent in the fiscal year that started on April 1. That would be the weakest pace in three decades.

Several states have already called for an extension of the shutdown, though they support less sweeping measures. The lockdown ends at midnight on Tuesday, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is due to make a decision on whether it should be extended.

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The number of coronavirus cases in India has topped 9,152 (including 308 deaths). An unnamed government source told Reuters that Modi has asked his cabinet to come up with plans to open some crucial industries (car manufacturing, textiles, defense and electronics sectors) as the livelihoods of millions of people are at stake. Firms could start a quarter of their operations while ensuring social distancing, the source said.

Chief minister of India’s northern state of Haryana, Manohar Lal Khattar, said he plans to divide his state into three zones. “In the green zone, small and medium industries will be allowed to start operations, provided the entrepreneur gives us an undertaking to fulfil the guidelines in letter and spirit. We want small industries to start operations at lower capacity first,” Khattar said.

Meanwhile in Pakistan, the country’s command and control authority, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and consisting of the civil and military leadership, is due to meet on Monday to decide whether to extend the countrywide lockdown beyond April 15. 

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Two cabinet ministers told Reuters the meeting will lay out a plan to reopen some industries in phases, mainly the construction and export sectors. Business owners will have to provide an account of safety measures and ensure disinfection in their factories, the ministers said, adding that they will be allowed to function only with a reduced workforce.

For more stories on economy & finance visit RT's business section

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