ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday said that coronavirus will be confronted by the force of faith as he announced the government's measures to contain the coronavirus, saying that a relief team made up of the youth will be instrumental in winning the war against the pandemic.
He issued a stern warning to hoarders and profiteers, warning them that the state will "make an example out of you". He began his address by saying that the whole country is fighting the war against coronavirus but China had emerged as the most successful country in containing the pandemic.
PM Imran said that China had locked down Wuhan to contain the virus. "Had Pakistan’s situation been similar to China’s, I would have ordered a lockdown in our cities as well," he said.
The prime minister said that 25 percent of Pakistan's population are the poor who couldn’t afford two meals a day. He said if the government is unable to look after the unemployed, the lockdown will not be successful.
"This disease does not differentiate between the poor and the rich," he said, citing the example of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who contracted the infection as well.
The prime minister said that resources are not merely enough to win the war against the pandemic. "India decided to impose a countrywide lockdown. Today, their prime minister issued an apology to the nation for ordering a lockdownwithout proper planning," he added.
The prime minister compared the relief package of the United States with Pakistan, saying that there was no comparison between the two. "I announced a relief package of $8 billion and the US announced a $2,000 billion," he said.
PM Imran said that the nation will battle the coronavirus with two key elements: faith and Pakistan's young population. "We have to combat coronavirus and use these two strengths to win the war [against coronavirus]," he said.
The prime minister announced a "Corona Tigers Relief Force" which would aid the administration and the armed forces in containing the virus. He said that a dedicated cell at the PM Office is monitoring the spread of virus.
PM Imran said that the relief force will provide food to the people at their doorsteps and will educate them on the safety precautions against the virus. He said young doctors, nurses, drivers and people belonging to any profession could choose to become part of the force.
The premier said that people are treating coronavirus patients like 'criminals' and reiterated that only the old and the weak needed to be hospitalised in case they contracted the infection. "Only three to four percent of the people need to be hospitalised when they contract the coronavirus," he said. "The rest need to self-quarantine to get better."
He said that the government is opening a "Prime Minister Corona Relief Fund" account, which will help people affected by the pandemic. PM Imran said that the account will be opened in the National Bank of Pakistan.
He called on the people to donate generously and said that no questions will be asked about the sources of the funds. "For those who deposit money in this account, the government will provide them tax relief," said PM Imran.
PM Imran said that the State Bank of Pakistan will provide loans on concessions to businesses that do not lay off employees as long as the crisis persists. The prime minister said when people hoard products, their prices increase and as a result, the poor are left out.
PM Imran warned people from increasing prices artificially to earn profit. "Those who want to make money from the hunger of the poor, the state will take strict action against you. The state will make an example out of you," he added.
He cited the example of the Ansar and Muhajireen from Islamic history and urged masses to unite to "defeat hoarders and create the spirit that will win the war against coronavirus."
PM Imran urged people to demonstrate responsibility by practicing social distancing. "Remember, if you are not careful, you are putting the lives of others in danger as well as your own," he said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan asked for establishment of a think-tank of experts, consisting of key ministries to have a review of the situation on daily basis and furnish recommendations accordingly.
The prime minister emphasised that Pakistan is faced with a situation never witnessed in its history and in the given difficult situation, all the government departments are needed to play a more pro-active role. He proposed a think-tank of experts from the ministries of National Food Security, Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance and Trade and Industries.
He said this while presiding over a high-level meeting here to review the measures taken in industry and commerce, energy sectors and to provide relief to the poor segments of society in the wake of coronavirus pandemic.
The prime minister made it clear that the government had firm resolve to take all-out steps to provide possible relief to people and every sector of the economy in difficult hour in the face of coronavirus breakout.
He said, “We are facing the challenge of poverty along with the issue of coronavirus and the government will use all its available resources to extend support to the weak segments of the society on priority basis”.
On this occasion, the prime minister directed the Minister for National Food Security Makhdoom Khusro Bahtyar to keep an eye on the availability of essential items in the country and to ensure that there is no shortage of flour, pulses, rice, ghee and sugar and other edibles.
The prime minister also directed the SBP Governor Reza Baqir to submit all the details and modus operandi regarding the relief fund and the contribution from the affluent local people and overseas Pakistanis, after consultations with the related departments.
The meeting was given briefing on the measures taken to provide people with regard to the energy sector in the backdrop of the prevailing situation. The forum laid emphasis on early furnishing of proposals on facilitating movement of people, concerning the wheat harvesting. It was also decided to prepare a list of industries in order to keep the wheel of economy moving to facilitate these industries so that the impact of the present situation is kept at minimum level.
Special Assistant on Social Protection Dr Sania Nishtar gave a detailed briefing to the prime minister regarding measures taken to provide relief to vulnerable segments in the context of prevailing situation.
Minister for Economic Affairs Hammad Azhar told the meeting that in the context of prevailing situation, 93 international NGOs had been allowed to work for six months while requests of another 53 was under consideration upon which a decision would soon be taken so that the INGOs did not face any difficulty in their welfare work at this critical juncture.
Adviser on Trade Abdul Razak Dawood said that as per the prime minister’s direction, all the large factories had been given instructions to ensure payment of salaries to their employees while the medium and small factories would also be given instructions for the protection of their employees.
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