PM fears hard times ahead

-Says number of Coronavirus cases would increase toward end of April
-Health system may come under stress
-Vows support to Baluchistan
-Stresses coordinated strategy to keep food supply chain uninterrupted

Bureau Report

QUETTA: Prime Minister Imran Khan Thaursday said the whole world was confronted with an unprecedented situation after the outbreak of COVID-19 and Pakistani nation would fight coronavirus with unity.
Talking to the Balochistan Cabinet and members of the Parliament during his day-long visit to Quetta, he said, “It is an unprecedented situation and as a nation we will confront it.”
He said as coronavirus cases were being increased worldwide and expressed fear that the number of such cases in Pakistan would be increased at the end of April which would put more pressure on hospitals.
He said the government was fully focusing on providing personal protection equipments (PPEs) and other related tools to doctors and paramedical staff at the hospitals, adding that such equipments had been provided to all those working at the intensive care units. He said there was shortage of ventilators and testing kits worldwide but the government was utilizing all its resources to import them on emergency basis.
The prime minister said the National Command and Control Centre for Covid-19 was in constant touch with all the chief ministers for effective coordination to control the spread of the virus.
He expressed his pleasure that there was no patient of coronavirus in Balochistan in the intensive care units. The prime minister said the coronavirus would have less impact in Balochistan except Quetta as the province had scattered population.
Contrary to it, he said, the Covid-19 would have greater impact in big cities like Karachi, Lahore and Faisalabad and so on.
The prime minister reiterated that the complete lockdown was badly affecting the low-income and laborer community particularly in Balochistan as the majority of the people here were already living below the poverty line. He said the provincial governments themselves would decide about the lockdown according to their situation on April 14. He said the federal and provincial governments were in coordination to tackle the pandemic as no single government could tackle it alone.
Earlier, during his day-long visit, the prime minister visited quarantine centre at Bolan Medical College Hospital Quetta. The prime minister was accompanied by Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, Deputy Speaker National Assembly Qasim Khan Soori and Sardar Yar Muhammad Rindh.
Balochistan Chief Secretary briefed the prime minister about the isolation ward and quarantine centre. The prime minister was also given a briefing on Covid-19 situation in Balochistan and the steps being taken to contain the spread of virus. Balochistan Governor Justice (retd) Aman Ullah Khan and Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan called on Prime Minister Imran Khan. Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday called for adopting an effective and coordinated strategy to ensure uninterrupted supply of food items, continuity of economic activities, provision of job opportunities and reduction of poverty in Balochistan in the wake of situation arising out of the coronavirus outbreak.
Stressing on the importance of sustained review of such a strategy, he, in that respect, also asked for the formation of a think-tank consisting of experts from various sectors. The prime minister expressed these views while presiding over a briefing here on the situation arising out of the Covid-19 in Balochistan province. Federal ministers Asad Umar, Zubaida Jalal, Governor Baluchistan Justice (R) Amanullah Khan, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, Provincial Minister for Education Sardar Yar Muhammad Rind, Commander Southern Command and senior officers were present. Giving recommendations, he said the think-tank should prioritize and focus on the take-care and welfare of poor people living below the poverty line.
The prime minister also highlighted the importance of easing restriction for the promotion of agricultural activities and supply of food items in the province. During the meeting, he was briefed about the take-care of people affected by coronavirus, arrangements made for the facilitation of Zaireen (pilgrims), uninterrupted supply of food items, provision of protection kits for doctors and health workers, and a future strategy to cope with the situation. He was also briefed about the provincial government’s current and future relief packages, distribution of ration among the deserving people, establishment of a Corona Relief Fund by the parliamentarians, various waivers for health workers and the measures regarding disinfection campaign at different places.
Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday said the distribution of Rs 12,000 per household as financial assistance among the 12 million deserving families started today under the unprecedented Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme would help mitigate the sufferings of poor masses affected by the lockdown due to Covid-19. “The whole country has been affected by the ongoing lockdown, but as the level of poverty in Balochistan is much higher than other parts of the country, I have come here today to discuss with the provincial government as to how we can help the poor people in the province,” he said while talking to newsmen. Balochistan Governor Justice (R) Amanullah Khan and Chief Minister Jam Kamal were also present on the occasion. The prime minister said 16,000 disbursement points had been opened across the country for distribution of Rs 12,000 per family as financial assistance under the historic Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, which was aimed at reaching out to the poor and deserving in the critical time.
Under the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, a total of Rs 144 billion would be distributed among the 12 million poor and deserving families across the country. Imran Khan said since the labour class, including daily-wagers, vendors and small shopkeepers, were badly affected by the lockdown, the government would review the situation on April 14 and could allow such small businesses to open in consultation with the provincial governments.
The prime minister said as the outbreak of Covid-19 was a national issue, it could only be fought and won through a coordinated effort of the federal and provincial governments, and by the whole nation in unison. He said Covid-19 was such a big challenge that the rich nations, including the Westerns countries despite having resources were facing difficulties in tacking the situation. The prime minister referred to the success of China in the fight against coronavirus, which, he said, won the war through unity and strategy. “We too have to help one another in this fight and win it as a nation,” he maintained.