As the death toll of Covid-19 patients crossed the 3,600 mark in Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated that lockdown was not the solution to the pandemic, saying that if provinces had consulted him earlier there would have been no “strict” lockdown in the first place.
The prime minister said this while addressing a launching ceremony of three initiatives - all aimed at facilitating and empowering welfare organisations and enabling them to play a more coordinated role with the government in responding to the Covid-19 situation.
“The lockdown has created an unprecedented situation. If provinces had consulted me, I would have not allowed a lockdown. Panic was created that the virus will spread the way it had in Europe and Wuhan. Our circumstances are different, but a strict lockdown was imposed
regardless,” he regretted.
He said the Covid-19 situation in Pakistan was still better than neighbouring India, US and European countries because the government had timely launched Ehsaas cash distribution programme for poor families affected by the coronavirus (under which Rs12,000 stipend was given to 12mn families).
“Next month is difficult in which smart lockdowns will be imposed and SOPs will be strictly followed to save our aged and those vulnerable people who are already suffering from ailments like heart diseases, diabetes and high blood pressure,” the prime minister said.
“If we are able to save these vulnerable people, there will be less effect of coronavirus in the country,” he added.
The prime minister revealed that under PM’s Covid-19 Fund, more than 16mn families would be provided monetary assistance. “Those who had not been covered under Ehsaas cash programme, like workers and daily wage earners, they will be given cash under the PM’s Fund,”
Talking about the government’s future strategy in the backdrop of Covid-19, the prime minister said: “The government’s next year challenge is how to continue businesses and enforce SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures).”
“For this we are going to launch a media campaign and will mobilise Tiger Force to provide awareness about SOPs specially in hotspots,” he added.
Earlier, Special Assistant to the PM on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar briefed the prime minister about three initiatives. Federal Minister for Information, Shibli Faraz and SAPM Asim Bajwa were preset during the briefing.
Federal secretaries and heads of organisations, including Furqan Ahmed Sayed from Pepsi Co, Mohamed Ali Tabba from Lucky Cement, Atif Bajwa from Alfalah Bank, Arif Usmani from NBP, Bashir Farooqui from Saylani Welfare Trust and Quraish Mehmood from Urban Properties were also present.
The prime minister assured donors of fair utilisation of donations and said: “Transparency is most critical in the use of donor funds; we are ensuing that there is visibility of every penny donated through the PM’s Covid Fund Portal.”
He said new Langar and Panahgah Apps would help ensure much needed critical coordination of welfare activities in the country.
Several donors, including Pepsi Co, Lucky Cement, Bank Alfalah and Saylani Welfare International Trust committed to donate cumulatively 12mn meals to deserving beneficiaries by signing MoUs with Ehsaas.
The beta version of the Ehsaas Langar and Panahgah apps, which was unveiled during the meeting, enables geographic locations of welfare organisations to be mapped when they are photographed through the app.
During the briefing, the prime minister also officially announced the launch of “PM’s Covid-19 Pandemic Relief Fund -2020 Web-Portal” to solicit philanthropic donations.
Through this portal, all donors, international as well as domestic, can now remit or deposit their donations through their respective banks through this portal. Till today, as many as pledges worth Rs4.5bn have been made by several domestic and foreign donors in either kind or cash.
In a separate meeting, the prime minister directed officials concerned to devise a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in consultation with provinces to deal with Covid-19 situation during forthcoming Eid al-Adha.
The prime minister said this year Eid al-Adha was being observed under difficult circumstances. “The present situation requires that SOPs should be devised immediately and they must be implemented strictly in the country,” he added.
According to an official press release, the prime minister expressed satisfaction over availability of beds and oxygen in the hospitals.
He said keeping in view of international experience, it had been witnessed that positive results were coming due to strategy adopted by the government.
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