Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

22 March 2020, Sunday 

Coronavirus: Pakistan wants loan repayment relief 

International flights suspended for two weeks

PR Daily Brief |

Coronavirus: Pakistan wants loan repayment relief 

Lakshmi V Menon

On 21 March 2020, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, during a telephonic conversation with his German counterpart Heiko Maas, said debt burdened countries like Pakistan must be given loan repayment reliefs to better deal with COVID-19. Lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir, communications blockade and sanctions against Iran were also discussed. (Dawn, 22 March 2020) 

Mr Qureshi said the lockdown had led to food and medicine shortage making the situation of Kashmiris dire. In Kashmir’s valley, 3,611 are under observation, four cases have been confirmed and over 2,600 are under quarantine.  

Mr Qureshi explained that Iran, the worst-hit country was in dire need of medical equipment, medicines and other assistance, and requires the urgent lifting of sanctions on humanitarian grounds to battle the spread of the pandemic. He had communicated the same to UNSC members previously. As per reports from Iran’s health ministry, coronavirus patients have increased to 20,610 while 1,556 have lost their lives to the novel pandemic.  Mr Maas assured the addressing of sanctions faced by Iran and the issue of debt relief at the upcoming European Union Foreign Ministers’ Conference and the G7 summit.

Previously, Iran’s President Rouhani had sought Pakistan’s support to lift sanctions on Iran, in the wake of the coronavirus situation.


In brief

International flights suspended for two weeks

Lakshmi V Menon

On 21 March 2020, with the rise in coronavirus cases across Pakistan to 645 and suspected cases to 4,046, SAPM on National Security Division Dr Moeed Yusuf said, the federal government has decided to suspend all international flight operations for a duration of two weeks; exempting diplomats and cargo flights. As per reports, armed forces would help civil administration to fight coronavirus and domestic screening of passengers would commence immediately. (Dawn, 22 March 2020)

21 March National Coordination Committee meeting’s decisions were made public during a press conference by NDMA chairman Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal, Dr Moeed Yusuf and SAPM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza. 

It was decided that Pakistan would seek medical equipment, unavailable in the West, from China and that quarantining in groups would be avoided to prevent spreading of the virus. Each suspect would get a dedicated room and toilet. Presently, there are over 600 rooms in Taftan and 300 each in Khyber and Chaman. According to Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal, a 1000 more container rooms would be built at the border quarantine facilities. Dr Zafar Mirza hinted a possible lockdown to flatten the curve and requested people to remain indoors during the Pakistan Day public holidays on March 21, 22 and 23 and urged to utilize the holidays to rehearse for a possible lockdown. He also informed the complete recovery of five patients. Dr Mirza reported that masks had been arranged. Lt Gen Afzal added that China would provide over 100 ventilators.

Meanwhile, Sindh government sought army deployment to aid control of the pandemic; Khyber Pakhtunkhwa placed a seven-day ban on inter-district public transport; Punjab government called for a three-days shutdown on 21 March; Balochistan’s CM Jam Kamal Khan called for a ten-days lockdown; suspected patients in Sukkur quarantine facility protested over hygiene issues; and rumours regarding patients escaping facilities caused widespread panic.

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