Minister for Planning says first phase will see Rs. 48 billion divided among four million families
The federal government will start disbursing Rs. 12,000/family from Thursday (tomorrow) under the special package introduced to support the needy suffering the economic impact of lockdowns imposed to curb the spread of COVID-19, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar said on Tuesday.
“In the first phase, we will disburse Rs. 48 billion to 4 million families for which 16,923 distribution points have been established across the country,” he said at a daily press briefing on the government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, adding that each family would receive Rs. 12,000 in cash and beneficiaries would not be discriminated against in any way.
According to Umar, 3,700 distribution points have been set up in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; 396 in Pakistan-administered Kashmir; 285 in Gilgit-Baltistan; 708 in Balochistan; 4,374 in Sindh; 7,299 in Punjab; and 161 in Islamabad. He assured the press that protective measures would be taken at all distribution points to prevent large groups of people from gathering there.
To a question, the minister said that doctors across Pakistan had the right to be provided personal protection equipment from the government because they were the front-line warriors against the coronavirus. “The government is taking every possible measure to protect doctors and other healthcare workers,” he added.
According to Umar, the federal government has provided 39,500 protective kits to the provinces, against requests for 22,000—of these Balochistan received 5,600; Islamabad 2,000; Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 7,600; Punjab 10,600; Sindh 9,200; Pakistan-administered Kashmir 3,000; and Gilgit-Baltistan 500.
The government would, additionally, provide medical equipment directly to 400 hospitals that already possessed ventilators, he said. Initially, according to Umar, 153 hospitals with a minimum of five ventilators had been shortlisted to become the first recipients of the protective equipment. These comprise four in Pakistan-administered Kashmir; seven in Islamabad; four in Balochistan; 21 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa; 75 in Punjab; and 42 in Sindh.
Briefing the media on Pakistan’s testing capacity for COVID-19, Umar said that about three weeks ago the country had the ability to test 700-800 samples/day. “That has now been increased to 3,000 tests/day, and by the end of April, it would rise to 25,000 tests/day,” he added.
The minister said that all Pakistanis should take protective measures to halt the coronavirus’ spread. No one, whether poor or rich, is completely safe from the virus “so everybody should take care,” he added.