ISLAMABAD – Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Wednesday said that the nation was passing through a difficult situation as it was fighting with both COVID-19 and hunger simultaneously.
He said if someone was advocating that poor people should not lose their income because of the lockdown, it did not mean they want citizens to die from the virus. Similarly, he said, those who were in favour of a complete lockdown did not wish for poor people to die from hunger. “This is a difficult situation,” Umar said.
He was addressing a news conference along with PM’s Special Assistant on Health, Dr Zafar Mirza and SAPM on National Security, Moeed Yusuf following a meeting at National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in Islamabad.
The Minister said unanimity must reflect in the decision-making process regarding the current coronavirus crisis in the country. He was of the view that coronavirus situation might be different in Karachi as compared to Nawabshah, adding that the situation on ground can be different in different parts of the country. “Once we’re done with the coronavirus crisis, we would have plenty of time to point out mistakes of each other.”
He said the government had to make decisions for the entire population and not just a few thousands. He said ground reality in Pakistan was different from other countries. He said the situation was much better in Pakistan than it was is several developed countries.
He further said that Rs35 billion were distributed among 2.861 million people under the Ehsaas Emergency Programme so far. He emphasised the importance of finding a balance between slowing the spread of the virus and ensuring lower-income people don’t go hungry.
SAPM Zafar Mirza while speaking on the occasion insisted on taking precautions despite lower death rate in the country. He said that a lower number of deaths, in comparison with the rest of the world doesn’t mean the people can afford to avoid taking precautionary measures.
The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients has reached 6,246 with 3,016 cases in Punjab, 1,668 in Sindh, 865 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 278 in Balochistan, 234 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 140 in Islamabad, and 46 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The virus has claimed 114 lives while at least 1,446 Coronavirus patients have recovered so far.
Speaking on the occasion, SAPM Moeed Yusuf said that domestic flights are suspended and will remain so. Flights from Islamabad to Gilgit-Baltistan and the other way around will continue to operate. He said all Pakistanis who are currently in India will be brought back to the country via Wagah Border on Thursday (today). Yusuf further informed that 41 Pakistanis will be brought back from India through Wagah border today.
He said every passenger arriving in Pakistan will be quarantined. He added that all citizens who wished to stay in hotels will have to bear their own expenses. Yusuf said that due to limited testing kits, the country’s ability to test local residents will be restricted if all Pakistanis arriving from other countries are tested. This is one constraint the government is facing in bringing back people from abroad, he told media.
Earlier in the day, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) commended the timely assistance provided by China to Pakistan to cope with the Coronavirus challenge.
According to a statement released by the National Command and Operation Center, a Chinese medical team visited Pakistan and held meetings in different cities with health professionals and others to help Pakistan cope with the situation. The NCOC noted that the Chinese side provided Pakistan with important medical equipment and medicines on war footing.
The NCOC said that the Chinese government also provided special assistance to fight coronavirus in Gilgit-Baltistan. It provided timely assistance to the region through Khunjerab and this included five ventilators, two hundred thousand masks and two thousand N-95 masks. China also provided two thousand each testing kits and protective gear for Gilgit Baltistan. Pakistan Army dispatched this medical equipment through helicopters to different parts of Gilgit-Baltistan, it said.
Rs35 billion handed to poor under Ehsaas scheme: Asad