Update (Apr 9, 2020): The Utility Stores Corporation (USC) Managing Director Umer Lodhi has announced to start ‘Mobile Utility Van services’ which will facilitate citizens living in far flung areas of the country. The main purpose behind these mobile utility van services is to provide various facilities at people’s doorsteps and also provide kitchen food items to the masses at fair rates. Another feature under the Mobile Utility Van Services would be the Home Delivery service which will be launched after approval of the proposal. The service will help provide essential food items to people in a lockdown due to COVID-19.
Update (Apr 2, 2020): The government has launched the largest-ever social initiative programme in Pakistan to support underprivileged families who are badly affected by the coronavirus crisis. In the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme, the government of Pakistan will provide 12 million families i.e. 72 million individuals will receive PKR 12,000 each. The total budget allocated for the cause is PKR 144 billion.
Moreover, the Prime Minister’s COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund-2020 has also been opened. You can make your contribution to the following account:
Account Title: Prime Minister’s COVID-19 Pandemic Relief Fund-2020
Account Number: 4162786786
Swift Code: NBPAPKKAMBR
Name of Bank: National Bank of Pakistan
Name of Branch: Main Branch, I.I. Chundrigarh Road, Karachi
Postal Code: 74500
Update (Mar 31, 2020): The Ehsaas Ration Donation Coordination Platform for charities will be made available from the 1st of April. The platform will help connect those who need ration items with the ones who can donate them
In the Ehsaas Ration Distribution Platform, individuals in need of food items, and those willing to donate will be able to register on the platform. When the registration of a donor is confirmed, a list of those seeking the food ration will become visible to the donor.
The number of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has risen to 1000. With the increasing number of coronavirus patients in the country, authorities are going all out to ensure the safety of the people. This blog will particularly focus on the government response to the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan.
The Government Response to the Coronavirus Outbreak in Pakistan
The World Health Organisation (WHO) classified the outbreak of the novel coronavirus as a ‘pandemic’ on March 11, 2020. And the way Covid-19 spread like a wildfire across the world has caused widespread panic and fear.
Since the first case of coronavirus in Pakistan, which was reported in February 2020, the government is taking measures to control the disease. The following are some of the measures taken by the Pakistani government to control the coronavirus.
- Multi-billion relief package approved
- Launch of national dashboard & chatbot
- Cell phone tracking to alert coronavirus risk patients
- Rapid research and innovation proposals invited
- Army deployed in Pakistan
- Suspended flights
- Getting hospitals ready
- Quarantine facilities
- Disinfected currency notes
- Corona Relief Tigers Force
- Corona Whatsapp Helpline
Let us discuss each of these points one by one.
1 Trillion Relief Package Approved
Prime Minister Imran Khan announced a multi-billion economic relief package to the vulnerable segments of the society, who have been badly affected by the coronavirus epidemic in the country. Daily wage earners, the business community, farmers and the public, at large, will benefit from the PM’s relief package. Here’s what the package includes:
- PKR 200 billion allocated for labourers/daily wage earners. Also, the government will ensure that businesses across Pakistan will not layoff their workers during the coronavirus epidemic
- PKR 100 billion have been earmarked for tax refunds, which usually require more time to give so they may spend this on their labour as well. Interest payments have also been deferred.
- PKR 100 billion has been kept for small and medium industries. Their interest payments have also been deferred. These small-scale businesses can also take benefit from concessional loans with low-interest rates
- PKR 150 billion is dedicated for low-income families who are adversely affected by the coronavirus epidemic. For the next four months, they will be given PKR 3000 per month. Provinces will also be asked to join hands
- In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan, there has been a rush in the government-run shelters for homeless people – panahgahs. These shelters need to be expanded and necessary protocols should be taken before letting anyone enter these shelters
- A special budget of PKR 50 billion has been allocated to ensure a constant supply of food during lockdowns. For wheat procurement PKR 280 billion have also been announced, so that farmers can earn their livelihood
- To help the business community and also to provide relief to the masses, the prices of petrol and diesel have been reduced by PKR 15, for which a budget of PKR 75 billion has been reserved
- Households that consume 300 units or less electricity can pay their bills in installments over three months. Similarly, people whose gas bill is PKR 2000 a month can also avail the deferred payment plan
- PKR 50 billion has been kept aside to provide facilities and appropriate equipment to the healthcare workers who are fighting off the disease on the front line.
- Furthermore, taxes on food items will either be reduced or abolished
- The government response to the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan also includes a special budget of PKR 100 billion, which can be utilized in case of an emergency situation
Launch of National Dashboard & Chatbot
As part of the government response to the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan, an official website has been launched that shows the live count of infected patients and those who have been recovered. The website also shares important information regarding coronavirus and how its spread can be curtailed. The myths, facts, symptoms and precautions have been shared on the website. There is also an official list of laboratories that are testing coronavirus patients across the country.
An official government chatbot was also launched that addresses people’s common concerns regarding the new coronavirus. There are different tabs on the chatbot: About Coronavirus, Symptoms, Protect Yourself, Assess Risk, Find Labs for Tests and Today’s Stats. If you click on Assess Risk, the chatbot will ask you a series of questions about your present health condition and advise you accordingly.
Get instant answers from the official chatbot:
Cell Phone Tracking to Alert Coronavirus Risk Patients
This is an initiative taken with the help of technology to control the spread of coronavirus in Pakistan. A cell phone tracking system under the government’s Digital Pakistan programme has been put in place.
The tracking system works by first shortlisting locations that have been visited by a confirmed Covid-19 patient during the last 14 days. The owner of the phone whose test results are positive for Covid-19, use the data and record to check out their latest contacts and notify the owners who came in close contact with the coronavirus patient. This would minimise the risk of coronavirus spread in Pakistan. People have also been advised to self-isolate and quarantine themselves.
To address people’s concerns, the government has also broadcast a public service message detailing the precautions one should take to control the spread of coronavirus.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and water
- Practice social distancing, avoid going out unless it very important
- Act as responsible citizens and follow instructions by the government for public safety
Rapid research and innovation proposals invited
The government is taking measures to control the coronavirus spread. For this purpose, the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan with the help of the World Bank invites technologists, universities and researchers to submit innovation proposals that can help tackle the coronavirus challenge. There are specific themes:
- Infectious Diseases Surveillance System
- Analysis of success and weakness of alternative epidemic control measures
- Disease epidemiological modeling
- Immune patterns of COVID-19
- Treatment modalities and strategies
- Information collection and dissemination on IT platforms
- Indigenous manufacturing of low-cost equipment materials such as ventilators, personal protective equipment
- Development of disinfectants, particularly using indigenous herbal and natural ingredients
Three grants would be given as follows:
|Funding Instrument||Maximum Funds||Duration|
|RAPID Research Grant||PKR 15 million||12 months|
|RAPID Technology Transfer Grant||PKR 7.5 million||6 months|
|RAPID Innovation Seed Fund||PKR 5 million||6 months|
The Higher Education Commission will evaluate the proposals and shortlist the best one based on the World Bank guidelines. The deadline to submit the proposal is April 3, 2020.
Army deployed in Pakistan
As part of the government response to the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan, the Chief of the Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has ordered the deployment of troops and medical forces to fight the war against coronavirus. Pakistan’s army will work with provincial governments in reinforcing measures against coronavirus spread. People are allowed to go out for food and health checkups.
The government response to the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan includes the suspension of flights to and from Pakistan. This was imposed on 21 March when all international flights were suspended for two weeks, from 21st March to 4th April. The Railways Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed also declared that 42 trains will be suspended for a period of two weeks.
Getting hospitals ready
The government has around 35 hospitals across the country which have been set up to provide health facilities to COVID-19 patients. The hospitals are equipped with more than 118,000 beds. The Ministry of National Health Services announced that 14 metric tonnes of PPE including face masks, thermometers, gloves and gowns have been dispatched.
Apart from the isolation centres at the Taftan border and in Sukkur, a quarantine facility has been set up at the Expo Centre in Karachi, in case of any emergency. Around 1,100 patients who test positive can be shifted to this quarantine facility. As per the National Action Plan for the Coronavirus, there are three isolation centres in Pakistan.
Disinfected currency notes
More recently, the State Bank of Pakistan issued a statement declaring that it would now be providing disinfected currency notes to all banks for circulation. All cash will be disinfected, sealed and quarantined which is collected from hospitals and clinics so as to block the circulation of infected currency notes in the market.
As a protocol, the banks could only re-issue cash which fulfilled its time in quarantine i.e. for 14 days. All ATMs, call centers and helplines would be running 24/7 to assist people. Banks would only be asked to close branches if any of their staff members tested positive with the coronavirus.
Corona Relief Tigers
To fight the war against coronavirus in Pakistan, the government has launched a youth labeled force by the name of Corona Relief Tigers. The registration process of Corona Relief Tigers will officially begin from 31 March and continue till 10 April. Youth over the age of 18 years can register themselves via the Citizens Portal.
The Corona Relief Tigers will be sent all over Pakistan to provide essential supplies where it is needed the most. They will also help arrange funerals and provide help at the quarantine centres. These Tigers will also assist Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) to enforce lockdown.
The government of Pakistan has launched a helpline in seven different languages to disseminate information across the country. It can be started in Sindhi, Pashto, Ounjabi, Urdu, Kashmiri, English and Balochi. You can send a whatsapp message on this number 092-300-111-1166 and get the latest information about the nearby coronavirus laboratory test.
So, these were some of the most effective steps taken by the government to tackle the coronavirus epidemic in Pakistan. You can also check out these coronavirus testing centres in Pakistan and our comprehensive blog on the current coronavirus situation in the country.
If you are looking for a hand sanitiser in Pakistan and can’t find one, check out this homemade hand sanitiser recipe and protect your loved ones from home. Make sure you are following these tips to keep your house clean and disinfected.
We are regularly updating the blog with the latest news and government initiatives. Don’t forget to write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will surely get back to you. Make sure to subscribe to our Zameen Newsletter, if you want to stay well-informed about the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan. Stay tuned to Zameen Blog, the best real estate blog in Pakistan.