Monday July 15, 2024

Highways opened, freight trains increased to keep supply lines intact

By News Desk
March 30, 2020

Ag Agencies

ISLAMABAD: Highways have been opened across the country and an increase in the number of freight trains ordered, while Prime Minister Imran Khan will announce a “comprehensive roadmap” today (Monday) to ensure free movement of food supplies as the government tries to strike a balance between salvaging the economy and provincial lockdowns amid a coronavirus pandemic that has thus far infected more than 1,500 people.

This was confirmed by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Firdous Awan at a news conference following a meeting of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) Core Committee on Sunday. The development came as the country’s confirmed Covid-19 infections reached 1,564 at the time of this report and 15 deaths, after three more people succumbed to the disease on Sunday. The government also opened up highways across the country to ensure the free movement of essential commodities.

This follows the federal government’s withdrawal of a notification regarding the resumption of international flight operations — reportedly after reservations from the Sindh government. In the notification, the government allowed resumption of operations at Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Quetta and Peshawar airports from April 5.

Reacting to the decision, Sindh Information Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah tweeted late on Saturday that the provinces should have been taken onboard regarding the issue as they are struggling to contain the epidemic.

In her press conference about the PTI Core Committee meeting, Awan quoted the Prime Minister as saying due to ongoing lockdown to prevent the spread of the virus, the national economy was being affected and supply chain of daily use items was slowed down. She said the Prime Minister advised the Minister for Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar to ensure the availability of food items, in particular flour, so there should be no shortage of such commodities. The Prime Minister’s aide insisted there was no shortage of food in the country and the committee once again expressed the resolve to treat hoarders and profiteers “with an iron hand”.

According to Awan, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdari told the meeting that his government had allocated Rs10 billion to provide Rs4,000 in financial assistance every month to 250,000 deserving people in the province through mobile phone money transfer facility Easy-Paisa. “Those getting financial support from BISP would not be included in this list,” she clarified.

She also said eight medical laboratories in the province would ramp up the province’s Covid-19 testing capability by carrying out tests of 3,200 people daily and the recruitment process of 10,000 doctors and paramedical staff had begun in the province.

She also quoted Buzdar as saying in any case doctors or paramedics die while discharging their duties, they would be “given the package and facilities as given to martyrs”.

She also said any relief provided by the federal government to the people of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan would also be given to Sindh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan as it was a time of national approach.

She said in National Coordination Committee meeting today (Monday), steps would be discussed to open the supply of goods needed to open industrial units and the construction sector to save the underprivileged from starvation. She said a counter strategy was needed to save labour class from unemployment.

In a further measure to enforce social distancing, the Sindh government has ordered fuel stations in the province closed after 5pm. According to a notification, all fuel stations within city areas will follow the timings set for shops during the lockdown from 8am to 5pm. As per the notice, tyre shops may remain open as well as petrol pumps on highways for transport of goods.