By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Wednesday that China came to Pakistan’s aid with medical assistance for the coronavirus pandemic as soon as it brought the outbreak in its territories under control.
The prime minister was addressing a gathering today, lauding China for lending medical assistance and supplies to Pakistan to help curb the disease.
He said that the worldwide demand for healthcare staff and material had shot up in the wake of the pandemic.
“I read today that the US had opened visas for health workers to assist them in handling the situation,” said the prime minister, noting that it was quite difficult to acquire a US visa in the past.
PM Imran also paid tribute to doctors, nurses and medical staff fighting on the frontlines in Pakistan.
He said that the government is constantly thinking about how best to facilitate them and the nation is standing firm behind them.
“Your protection is our number one priority,” he said, indirectly addressing the medical staff tending to coronavirus patients.
The prime minister expressed fear that the pandemic will peak in Pakistan, but no one knows at what rate.
He noted that Pakistan has had relatively fewer fatalities as compared to the ratio around the world.
The prime minister also regretted that the healthcare system in Pakistan has been neglected in the past 70 years. As of Wednesday, the number of coronavirus patients across the country has crossed 2,000, with the death toll at 26.
In an earlier address, PM Imran said the nation would battle the coronavirus with two key elements: faith and Pakistan’s young population.
“We have to combat coronavirus and use these two strengths to win the war [against coronavirus],” he said. The prime minister also announced a “Corona Tigers Relief Force” which would aid the administration and the armed forces in containing the virus.
He still spoke against a country-wide lockdown, despite reservations from opposition parties and his own provinces choosing to implement. The prime minister said that 25% of Pakistan’s population were the poor who couldn’t afford two meals a day. He said that if the government was unable to look after the unemployed, then the lockdown will not be successful.
PIA plane departs to pick up medical aid from China
A Pakistan International Airlines aircraft has departed for Beijing to collect aid from the Chinese that it has given to the country in its fight against coronavirus, said a spokesperson of the national carrier.
The spokesperson said that PK 8853 has departed for Beijing with a seven-member PIA loading team and will return with the flight.
The spokesperson said that the plane will land in Islamabad at 1pm on Thursday with 52 tonnes of aid to help Pakistan fight in the coronavirus.
The aid includes protective kits, masks, testing kits and other medical supplies, said the spokesperson.
According to a Foreign Office spokesperson last week, a team of doctors from China arrived in Islamabad to help devise strategy for curbing the disease.
The Chinese government had provided 12,000 test kits, 300,000 masks, and 10,000 units of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to Pakistan, they said.
The spokesperson said that the Chinese government had also provided $4 million to build a separate hospital for coronavirus patients.
The FO said that the Xinjiang government had separately provided 50,000 masks to the Sindh government while aid from private means in China has also been received.