Daily Briefs

Photo : Dawn

21 March 2020, Saturday

Pakistan fights CoronaVirus

Pakistan receives $1m US aid to tackle coronavirus; sends halal food to Wuhan; Sindh calls for three-day lockdown

PR Daily Brief | PR Team

In brief

Pakistan receives $1m US aid to tackle coronavirus

Lakshmi V Menon

On 20 March 2020, US State department’s Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs, tweeted the decision to give Pakistan an "initial $1 million" as a part of the US Agency for International Development to fight the COVID-19 outbreak by bolstering frequent monitoring and prompt response. (the News International, 21 March 2020)

tweet highlighted that over a hundred Pakistani graduates of Centre for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) epidemiology lab were training by investigating COVID-19 cases in Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan. CDC is USA’s leading national public health institute. The secretary advised US citizens desiring to return to the country “work their airlines to make travel arrangements while flights are still available." He added that Pakistan and US were age-old partners in “tackling global health challenges”.

Meanwhile, routine consular services by the US Mission have been suspended in Pakistan.


In brief

Pakistan sends halal food to Wuhan

Lakshmi V Menon

On 20 March 2020, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) sent 17 tonnes of cooked halal meals and daily-use essentials to over 1,300 Pakistani students stranded in Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to SAPM for Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Bukhari, the dispatched food would be sufficient for 15 days for the 1300 students. (Dawn, 21 March 2020)

NDMA decided to send food following reports regarding difficulty in obtaining halal food. The Authority received a donation of Rs20 million from Ministry of Human Resource Development and Overseas Pakistanis for this purpose. Previously, the Chinese government and the World Health Organisation (WHO) had advised against the evacuation of foreigners from China, owing to the coronavirus outbreak. However, the swelling pressure from parents of students stranded in China has made matters difficult for the federal government. The current move aims to pacify the grievances of these parents.

Meanwhile, Zulfiqar Bokhari and Dr Zafar Altaf briefed the parents regarding the facilities provided to the students and the lockdown situation in China; the cabinet and ministry of foreign affairs submitted replies to the IHC for the petition regarding Pakistani citizens’ repatriation from coronavirus-stricken China; parents complained the government did not act to evacuate the students; the court was informed about the normalization of the condition in Wuhan; and the IHC Chief Justice credited China for being the only country to overcome the novel virus and adjourned further hearing for four weeks.

In brief

Sindh calls for three-day lockdown

Lakshmi V Menon

On 20 March 2020, following the first coronavirus death in Sindh (a 77 years-old cancer survivor) and the surge in confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan (501), Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, during the provincial task force’s 23rd meeting on coronavirus, announced Sindh would lockdown for three days. Presently, Sindh has confirmed 252 cases, followed by Punjab (96), Balochistan (92), Gilgit-Baltistan (30), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (23), Islamabad (7) and Azad Kashmir (1). (The News International, 20 March 2020) 
Sindh Health Department briefed on various matters. First, that Sukkur alone had 151 cases. Second, that on 20 March, of the 1,874 suspected cases brought to public hospitals, 21 had been tested; and of the 702 brought to private hospitals, 5 had been tested. Third, on provisions to provide pensions at the respective homes of the pensioners. Sindh’s IG of Police Mushtaq Mehar notified regarding public movement limitations and said no more than five people were allowed to gather on roads, cars or other locations; violations would face legal actions. 
On 20 March, Dr Palitha Mahipala, WHO representative in Pakistan conducted a press briefing. First, to urge media to introduce a ‘Whole of Society’ approach to appease panic situations by propagating social-distancing and hand hygience. Second, to explain WHO’s role as technical lead health agency aiding Pakistan’s coronavirus response. Lastly, to share national, regional and global data on the outbreak. 
During a media briefing in Islamabad, PM Imran Khan urged the nation to stay calm and adopt precautionary measures such as social distancing and self-quarantining; praised China for combating COVID-19; urged global community to lift sanctions on Iran; ruled out the possibility of an immediate complete shutdown saying that daily wagers would suffer; notified the creation of a financial package to provide incentives to tackle the coronavirus outbreak; and sounded optimistic regarding the control of the pandemic owing to the nation’s dry and hot weather conditions. 
Meanwhile, SAPM on Information and Broadcasting Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan announced the closure of all government offices providing public service for two weeks; provincial education minister, Saeed Ghani, urged people to remain indoors during the Pakistan Day public holidays on March 21, 22 and 23; KP CM Mehmood Khan has decided to establish an emergency coronavirus control room, owing to another death; and the 250 pilgrims who reached Taftan on 20 March have been quarantined.

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