Pakistan on Tuesday approved a Rs 700 crore special relief package for labourers to help them face the economic fallout of the lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed over 300 lives and infected more than 14,000 people in the country.
Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired a Cabinet meeting which discussed various issues, including the fight against the coronavirus. Addressing the Cabinet, Khan tasked Special Assistant for Social Welfare Dr Sania Nishter and Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar to devise a comprehensive mechanism for providing relief to the workers.
The Cabinet approved a Rs 75 billion (700 crore) special relief package for labourers. It also approved an assistance package for the COVID-19 related healthcare workers.
“Any healthcare worker, who dies while performing duties related to the COVID-19 shall be entitled to the same package as is applicable to the government servants in cases of security related deaths contained in Shuhada Package,” according to a statement.
The package will be applicable to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan, it said.
The Prime Minister also approved “Green Stimulus” package on Tuesday as part of his government’s efforts to extend green cover in Pakistan and to create job opportunities for the youth especially in the wake of COVID-19 crisis.
The package, as part of 10 billion Tree Tsunami project, aims to promote plantation, setting up nurseries, natural forests and promotion of honey, fruit and olive plantation in the country, according to a statement by the Prime Minister’s Office.
Under this package, a “Green Nigehbaan” initiative would also be launched to provide job opportunities to initially 65,000 youth and daily wagers, making them part of the plantation campaign.
The Prime Minister in his remarks said that addressing climate issues and enhancing green cover of the country were among the foremost priorities of his government.
“Green Stimulus Package, especially the Green Nigehbaan initiative will offer employment opportunities to the youth and will help in promoting the objectives of Clean & Green Pakistan,” he said.
Khan said it will enable daily wagers earn their living with dignity during recent situation arising out of Covid-19.
He also directed the Ministry of Climate Change to prepare a plan of action for engaging international community under Debt for Nature Swap programme to convert part of country’s debt into grant for greater plantation and environment protection activities.
Advisor on Health Dr Zafar Mirza told the media that the rate of daily coronavirus deaths reported in Pakistan remained the same for the last two weeks, which was a good trend.
“We hope this (deaths) will start decreasing,” he said, adding that people should follow the government’s guidelines.
“We might have to extend the lockdown if people don’t follow the social distancing measures,” he said.
Mirza also said the government had decided to prepare national guidelines regarding the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).
The government is working on a national plan for the safety and protection of frontline healthcare workers during the Covid-19 pandemic, which will be announced in a few days.
He said it was decided after talking with provincial health ministers and the Pakistan Medical Association that “we need to work together for the safety and protection of our health workers”.
Pakistan coronavirus cases crossed 14,000 mark on Tuesday as 751 more infections were reported in the last 24 hours.
The Ministry of National Health services reported that the death toll reached 312 as 11 more people died during this period, while 3,233 people have fully recovered.
The total number of cases in Pakistan is 14,514. Punjab has registered 5,730 patients, Sindh 5,291, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 1,984, Balochistan 853, Gilgit-Baltistan 330, Islamabad 261 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 65.
So far, 157,223 tests have been done, including 6,417 during the last 24 hours.
Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Hamza Shafqat issued an advisory to all media houses in the capital, urging them to take steps for protection of their workers after ARY News channel closed down its office after seven of its employees were tested positive.
“They (media workers) must be provided with appropriate protection gears. We have provided some support to the reporters but more is required,” said Shafqat in a tweet.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet approved a special support package for the journalists and journalistic bodies especially press clubs to help them during the pandemic and tasked the Minister for Information to finalise procedure for disbursement of the grant to the deserving journalists and journalistic bodies.
Also, during the meeting, Khan directed to ban export of all edible items consumed by common man in the wake of current situation. The decision will be reviewed after two weeks.