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Pakistan

Web Desk
April 8, 2020

Govt to start dispersing coronavirus relief funds on Thursday

Pakistan

Web Desk
Wed, Apr 08, 2020
Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing on April 8, 2020. — Geo News/Screengrab via The News

Prime Minister Imran Khan said Wednesday the federal government would start disbursing the coronavirus relief funds under the Ehsaas Programme to families affected by the lockdown from tomorrow (Thursday).

"Around 17,000 points have been identified for cash distribution," said the premier.

According to Dr Sania Nishtar, who is incharge of the programme, 1.2 million families will get Rs12,000.

"Funds distribution will be done on the basis of biometric verification," she said, explaining that this way no one will be able to take advantage of funds allocated for someone else, such as if there had been a card system.

An SMS can be sent to 8171 containing the 13-digit National Identity Card number, said Dr Nishtar. This will let a family know if they are eligible for the payment

Flights repatriate stranded Pakistanis

Asad Umar took over the briefing for a while to discuss the matter of flights bringing back Pakistanis stranded abroad.

"Many Pakistanis abroad who had gone with a visa or those who have lost their jobs wish to come back," noted Umar.

He said a plan was initially made to bring people back over the course of a week.

"In the first week, flights only came to Islamabad. We had decided that after the first day, we will review.

"It was good we had decided that as there were a few troubles that arose after the first flight which we have now fine-tuned," said the minister.

Umar said that the matter came under discussion in the National Coordination Committee held earlier in the day.

"We agreed that the other airports have to be included in this," he said, referring to airports in other provinces.

"A system is being made so that they can come and at the same time no danger is posed from their arrival."

He said by next week, operations will begin at airports in other provinces.

NDMA chief explains 'what the federal govt is doing'

The prime minister said that when news of the coronavirus outbreak first surfaced, Pakistan aimed to procure enough medical equipment at the outset that the hospitals are not overwhelmed.

He expressed regret at the recent clashes of young doctors in Quetta with the police as they protested the non-availability of personal protective equipment. "That's why all of you must know what the federal government has been doing and what it plans to do in the days to come."

The premier then invited the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chief Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal to provide a clear picture.

Gen Afzal said that in the initial days, demand for equipment had only come from three areas, including the capital territory. "Then we ourselves sent equipment to other areas, especially to doctors working in ICUs," he said.

He said for Punjab, it was found 6,000 people needed equipment but equipment for 18,000 was provided. Furthermore, 20,000 more items are ready and will be distributed to doctors by name across 56 hospitals in the days to come.

"There was also no written demand from Sindh. We calculated number of doctors and nurses and arrived at a figure of 9,000. We sent them equipment for 15,000."

He said 42 hospitals are still on the agenda and will receive equipment soon.

Gen Afzal said demand from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had come for the first time yesterday and they have asked for 940,000 PPEs. "We had already sent them 10,900 PPEs," he said, adding that over the next three days, more wil be sent through the army and civil administration.

The NDMA chairman said, similarly, there was no written demand from Balochistan but with a calculated figure of 2,000, extra equipment of up to 8,000 items was provided to the province.

A demand of 15,000 items had come from Gilgit-Baltistan and we gave them 24,000 articles and 4,000 more will be given "under a fresh plan".

He said that three to four hospitals in Islamabad had demanded 18,000 items and so far 8,000 items had been provided. A plan is in place for another 6,000 to be distributed over the next three days.

Lt Gen Afzal said that from Azad Jammu Kashmir a demand of 10,000 items had come and 13,000 items had already been sent, whereas another 2,000 will be sent in the coming days.

He also said that despite an international shortage of ventilators, "with cooperation from provincial and federal governments, the benchmarks set will be met".

Speaking of the country's testing capacity, he said that on March 13, there were only 14 laboratories that could carry out about 2,000 to 2,250 tests a day.

"Today we have 22 laboratories. For 12 laboratories, equipment has been sent to provinces already."

NDMA has provided 17,000 N95 masks and kits to Punjab, 8,000 to Sindh, 97,000 to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 6,200 to Balochistan, 2,750 to Gilgit-Baltistan, 1,000 to Islamabad and 2,800 to AJK, he said.

Equipment to arrive

Lt Gen Afzal said that 100,000 testing kits were arriving tonight and by Friday 235,000 testing kits would be available in the country.

Of the total number of imported kits, 35,000 would be provided to Sindh, 25,000 each to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab and 15,000 testing kits would be provided to Balochistan.