Islamabad: On Sunday, Prime Minister Imran Khan ordered the elimination of all barriers to goods transport and the opening of all national highways to ensure a smooth and sufficient supply of foodstuffs from farms/factories to markets in the midst of ‘panic buying’ due to deadly coronavirus alert.
He reiterated his pledge to ration at the doorstep of the poor and daily wage earners — who are said to be the worst-affected segments of the population during the countrywide lockdown imposed to prevent Covid-19 from spreading — through a force of young volunteers that he will formally establish on Monday (now).
Mr. Khan gave the instructions while chairing a meeting of the core committee of ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in the House of Prime Ministers.
The meeting was told that the government had begun to provide all medical practitioners with personal protective equipment (PPE), including physicians and paramedics currently performing their duties in various hospitals, and for coronavirus patients, Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and quarantines were created across the country. It was told he/she would be given the Shuhada [martyr] kit in case of death of any of the medical practitioners during service.
Setting up the formal strength of young volunteers today “The core committee was informed that although the Prime Minister had ordered the restoration of movement of goods throughout the county a few days ago, nearly 80% of goods were still off the road due to certain restrictions imposed by provincial governments, including the blocking of national roads,”
She said the prime minister was very worried about reports of food shortages in many parts of the world and ordered stern action against those involved in hoarding, black marketing, and exorbitant price charging. She said the provinces had been consulted by the prime minister and would announce a road map to ensure the smooth distribution of critical products across the country.
Prime Minister Khan, she said, had been told that there were enough food items in the country, including agricultural products such as wheat, rice, pulses, and grains.
Speaking of the youth volunteer force to be known as the Coronavirus Relief Tigers (CRTs), the SAPM said: “Prime Minister Imran Khan once again expressed trust in the country’s youth and hoped that they would help the government meet the challenges raised by the deadly virus.” She said that an Rs10 billion fund had been allocated for ration supply and provision of Rs4,000 each as a result. “In the first phase, 2,5 million people who are already enrolled under the Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) would receive Rs4,000 per month through Easypaisa and those who are not in the database would receive the money through appropriate deputy commissioners,” she said, adding that those BISP beneficiaries who were already receiving monetary assistance will not receive Rs4,000 as it was clearly intended to receive Rs4,000.
Dr. Awan said Punjab’s PTI-led government will offer Rs4,000 stipends to 8,000 poor families in all 302 provincial assembly constituencies.
The provincial government, she said, will create eight coronavirus-fighting laboratories and have begun the appointment process of 10,000 doctors and paramedics. “These laboratories would conduct 3,200 tests on a day to accurately estimate the number of coronavirus patients in the province.” She said that in order to appreciate the services of doctors and other medical practitioners, the government will send them an extra one-month salary and offer the Shuhada package to those who would lose their lives while carrying out their duties.
The SAPM said that a total of Rs32bn had been allocated by the PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government to combat the deadly disease, of which Rs11.4bn will be spent on providing ration and stipends to 1.9 million poor families. She said the BISP coverage under the government’s flagship Ehsaas program was being expanded, and it included 5 m more beneficiaries. The KP and Punjab provincial governments will send the BISP beneficiaries an additional Rs2,000 per month, she added.
Ms. Awan said the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) was set up in the country five coronavirus testing laboratories, including two in Karachi, which would double the ability of the authority to perform suspected patient research.