–Imran says govt alone cannot support 220m people who live below poverty line
-Says govt focussed on flattening curve by restricting movement of people
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said the government was raising extra funds to control the economic fallout of coronavirus in the country in order “to take care of 220 million people who live below the poverty line” amid a protracted pandemic.
The number of cases in the country stood at 4,780 by Friday evening, with 72 deaths recorded so far. In Punjab, the cases have reached 2,336, in Sindh 1,214, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa 656, Balochistan 219, Islamabad 107, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Kashmir has a total of 248 cases.
Attending a telethon on 92 News to raise donations for the coronavirus fund, Imran said no government could win the war against COVID-19 alone and national unity was needed to defeat the contagion.
He said the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) comprised representatives from the federal and provincial governments, military officials and medical experts, who jointly take decisions through coordination.
Answering questions, he said Rs144 billion will be distributed among 12 million families, but we know there are more people who need this support. “We are using all our resources, but we have to take care of 220 million people who live below the poverty line across the country… that’s why we have arranged this fundraising telethon,” he explained.
He said the government was leaving no stone unturned to tackle the crisis.
“Countries around the world are taking the brunt of coronavirus… many governments are struggling… even the rich European countries. You can see the situation in New York… even they were asking for help from other states.
“We know that the coronavirus cases will further rise in the coming days, but by limiting our movement, we can flatten the curve… this is the aim of my government.”
He said due to a weak health system in the country, people are requested to socially distance themselves. “We have to take all possible precautions… that’s the only way out of this crisis,” he maintains. “No one knows what the situation would be in future… we can only hope for the best,” said the premier.
He assured that all the public donations would be used to support the poor as their numbers would be growing continuously owing to the closure of industries and businesses.
He said the government had set up a transparent funds distribution system based on the database of the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA). In order to avert the mismanagement experienced during the relief operations after 2005 earthquake and 2010 floods, a web portal would be launched soon to guide the charity organizations as to where they should deliver the relief goods considering the people’s needs.
He said after April 14, the government would open up the construction sector to revive the employment opportunities for the poor people. The prime minister said from the very first day, he had been opposing the blanket lockdown owing to its adverse impact on the poor.
“There is a difference between the lockdown in DHA or E-7 sector and Machhar Colony and Orangi Town. It would be a joke with the people living in population clusters and slums to maintain social distance and observe cleanliness when they even lack clean drinking water,” he commented.
He said the negative impacts of the lockdown were already emerging in those countries which had made the hasty decisions following the Chinese or Western models.
He said the Western countries had registered labour making easy for the governments to extend assistance while almost 80 per cent of Pakistan’s labourers were unregistered.
To a question, the prime minister said all of the health workers, particularly those deputed at the ICU (intensive care units) and emergency departments would receive their protective kits within a couple of days and assured them of the government’s full support.
‘DOCTORS NEED NOT WORRY’:
The PM said the potential hike in coronavirus cases in the country will put pressure on the healthcare system of Pakistan, assuring the doctors and paramedic staff of complete support in the fight against the pandemic.
Speaking during his visit to Hayatabad Medical Complex in Peshawar earlier in the day, the prime minister assured to provide protective equipment to the medics to fight the coronavirus challenge.
“Whole nation and the federal government fully stand with our doctors, paramedics in the fight against coronavirus. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will bring more medical equipment from China and other countries,” he added.
PM said there is a worldwide shortage of ventilators as markets across the world are closed due to lockdown. He said more ventilators will arrive in Pakistan in the coming days.
Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz informed the PM that the provincial government had enforced the corona emergency on February 3. The KP governor, CM, health minister, and other relevant authorities were monitoring the whole situation on a daily basis.
As many as 275 quarantine centers have been established with the accommodation capacity of 18,000 persons in the province, the secretary said, adding that the KP CM announced Rs32 billion relief package in the wake of the pandemic.
The PM was further told that 583 ventilators were available in KP and numbers were being increased. Some 638 regular and 1299 contractual doctors have been recruited in the province.
In addition to it, 9000 retired doctors, nurses, and paramedics have voluntarily registered and can be called if required. Similarly, 400 rapid response teams have been constituted to deal with the coronavirus situation.