ISLAMABAD, Jun 16 (APP):The government has devised a strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19 pandemic keeping in view the country’s economic situation as well as the ground realities.
Minister for information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz while briefing the media about the decisions taken in the Federal Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, said the government had been making efforts to save the people’s lives and the economy simultaneously.
He said at the outset, the prime minister told the meeting that the coronavirus pandemic had badly affected the national economy, and the government had given a special economic package for the construction sector.
It had been decided to form a high level committee under the Naya Pakistan Housing Authority like NCOC comprising representatives of federal and provincial governments, and relevant ministries and departments, which would ensure fast-track resolution of the construction sector’s problems on daily basis, he added
He stressed the need to pay attention to the industrial sector so that the employment opportunities could be created for the youth.
Shibli Faraz said the PM stated that the PTI government had a clear cut policy to handle the pandemic since its inception.First selected lockdowns were imposed while the National Coordination and Operation Centre (NCOC) was constituted, which held meetings on daily basis to
formulate policies on the basis of facts and figures. The NCOC took input from medical professionals, chief ministers, ministers and other experts before taking decisions on the
future line of action.
The minister said the cabinet was informed that when the first case of coronavirus was reported in the country, there were only two testing labs, which were 126 as today. Similarly in the end of February, only 2,800 ventilators were available, which had now increased to 4,800 while 1,400 more would be added in a few days.
The country today had some 2,000 oxygen beds while 30,000 tests of the coronavirus were being conducted on daily basis, he added.
Shibli said some people were criticizing the government policy but they should realise that Pakistan could not afford a long-term complete lock down in order to save the poor segments of the society from hunger.
The PM told the meeting that Pakistan’s economy and healthcare system could not be compared to the United States or Europe, whose healthcare systems had even collapsed in the face of the corona spike. The US government came to the conclusion that the lockdown was not the answer to contain the coronavirus spread.
He said the cabinet was informed that when neighbouring India imposed a strict lockdown, there were only 635 confirmed cases but with easing of the restrictions the number rose to 198,000. It indicated failure of the lockdown as 120 million Indians had lost jobs while a big portion of the population was facing starvation, he added.
The prime minister said before easing the restrictions, the government issued the standard operating procedures (SOPs), advising the people to adopt precautionary measures, particularly to
practice social distancing, who unfortunately ignored the directions especially during the Eid shopping.
He urged the cabinet members to play a proactive role in the implementation of SOPs. If the people started following the SOPs, the corona cases could be reduced to half.
By adopting precautionary measures, the masses could help move the wheel of the economy and save the vulnerable from starvation, the prime minister added.
Imran Khan told the meeting that the provinces had been given complete authority to impose the strict lockdown in the areas identified as hot spots of the virus. Moreover fines and imprisonment would be awarded to the violators, Shibli Said.
The minister said in the next budget, special incentives had been given to the agriculture and construction sectors which could play a crucial role in the revival of the economy in coming months.
Shibli said the PM had issued directives for taking urgent steps for bringing back stranded Pakistani labourers in the Middle East countries.
He said the cabinet was informed that the problem of shortage of petroleum products had been overcome, which were now available.
The minister said the cabinet gave approval to the ECC decisions taken in its meeting on June
10. It okayed ECC’s recommendation of continuing provision of risk allowance to health workers.
The cabinet discussed the issue of high rise buildings near airports and deferred it till next meeting for further deliberations.
Shibli said the cabinet approved constitution of a special fund for the remaining amount of Rs 1.2 trillion allocated for the corona relief activities so that the amount did not lapse and could be utilized in the next fiscal year.
He said the cabinet also gave unanimous approval to the draft law for the protection of rights of children working as domestic help.
Replying to the questions, the minister said presently there was no shortage of petroleum products in the country, except in some parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) where their supply would be restored soon.