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June 25, 2020

178 people catch covid-19 in Sindh due to Ehsaas programme, Sindh Assembly told

Karachi

June 25, 2020

The Sindh Assembly was informed on Wednesday that as many as 178 persons contracted the novel coronavirus in the province owing to the execution of the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme 2020 for the poor families hit hard due to the lockdown earlier imposed in the country against the spread of the fatal viral disease.

Information to this effect was passed on to the members of the provincial assembly as Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho took part in the ongoing debate on the government’s proposed budget for the fiscal year 2020-21. The general discussion on the budget continued for the fourth day on Wednesday.

The disclosure by the health minister came against the backdrop of the reservations earlier expressed by the provincial ministers and spokesmen for the Sindh government about the federally-run Ehsaas cash dispensation programme, as, according to them, the centres set up under the programme could not ensure social distancing among the recipients of the relief cash, and the biometric verification system being used there could become a source of the spread of the COVID-19 infection among the poor people.

Referring to the criticism by opposition legislators of her work during the coronavirus emergency, the health minister said her services continued without any interruption, and she did not need the praise of anyone for doing her job.

She said she believed in doing work as her service for the people of Sindh. She warned that the pandemic was not over yet, and a new wave of the viral infection could emerge in August and last till October. She said the coronavirus could not be eliminated from the country anytime soon.

Dr Pechuho was of the view that the situation was a challenging time for everyone, as people, despite their will, could not observe the standard operating procedures recommended by the government against the spread of the coronavirus.

The adverse effects of easing the lockdown measures in the country had emerged just within one month, she said. “We weren’t prepared to tackle the situation emerging in front of us.”

The health minister further stated that the daily coronavirus infection rate in the province was more than 19 per cent. She noted that the government had spent a sum of Rs3 billion on the procurement of different equipment in the fight against COVID-19.

She informed the house that a sum of Rs210 million had been spent on establishing high dependency units and intensive care units at the Civil Hospital Karachi and the Lyari General Hospital. The health department had established 81 isolation centres for lodging coronavirus patients in the province, she added.

Dr Pechuho said the new infectious diseases hospital at Nipa would be fully functional till December, while the first phase of the hospital would be ready by next month. She said some 300,000 N-95 surgical masks and face shields were being procured for the healthcare professionals associated with the government-run hospitals and basic health units in the province.

She complained that women in the province were not motivated towards joining the profession of nursing, and the government would introduce BSc and MSc degree programmes in nursing.

Taking part in the general discussion, opposition legislators complained that the government had yet to establish any emergency telephone helpline service where coronavirus patients or their family members could get vital information regarding the availability of ICU, HDU or isolation ward beds.

One of the opposition legislators said that although Karachi contributed Rs 210 billion towards the revenue collection by the government, it didn’t get any fresh development scheme in the new budget of the provincial government.

A legislator of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Muhammad Hussain Khan, said Sindh was not at all any poor province as it generated a handsome amount of revenue for the government, but even then the government was not willing to spend on Karachi.

He said the government’s own budget documents revealed that Karachi accounted for the maximum revenue generation in the province, but the government’s spending on the city could not exceed Rs150 billion during the last 12 years (of the PPP’s rule in the province).

He advised the government to slash its non-development budget, and increase its spending on the development of the province.

He claimed that the construction of new hospitals in Korangi, Malir, and SITE areas had been stopped. He also termed the government’s allocation for education in Karachi “insufficient”.

Dr Seema Zia, opposition legislator belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, said the departments of social welfare and women development of Sindh had shown no output or

performance.

She advised the health minister to end her home isolation and start visiting hospitals during the coronavirus emergency. Dr Zia said that appointments in the Sindh Health Care Commission had not been meritorious.