Govt and nation will win the fight against coronavirus: Imran Khan

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ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday, while noting financial implications of the spread of coronavirus, expressed his optimism that the government and the nation together will win the fight against the deadly contagion.

In a televised address to the nation, the prime minister urged the people not to panic from the situation. “The country cannot go for a complete lockdown due to the economic situation, which has seen vital signs of resurgence from the last year,” he said. “The situation in Pakistan is different. About 25 per cent of the country’s population is poor. The 2019 was a difficult year. Slowly and gradually, we arrested the economic situation, which has now started showing signs of recovery. In case of lockdown, the people might be saved from coronavirus but can die from poverty,” he said, referring to the lockdown of cities in Europe and the United States.

Dilating upon negative impacts of COVID-19 on the world economy, the prime minister warned that Pakistan has to endure its shocks due to slide in the prices of oil, aviation industry and transport. He said the country’s exports can suffer and the same may be the case with other businesses.

Expressing the resolve to provide relief to the masses, Imran Khan said the government will closely monitor the prices of daily use commodities. He shared his fears that certain elements can try to push prices of the daily-use items through artificial shortage. He gave a stern warning to such elements, saying that they will be strongly dealt with in accordance with the law. Such elements in the past also created shortage of sugar and flour through hoarding, he said. “I give a clear message to these people that such situation will evoke a strong reaction from the state that will move strictly against hoarders and profiteers trying to take undue benefits from the situation,” he said.

The prime minister advised the nation to follow basic hygienic measures like frequent washing of hands and avoiding social gatherings. “As a nation, we will face and win this war,” he declared, assuring doctors, nurses and other medical staff that the government will ensure provision of all the required health and safety equipment to them.

The prime minister said the government is alive to the situation since the outbreak of COVID-19 in China. On January 15, the government took decisions as the people are arriving Pakistan and they can carry the pathogen, he said, adding that the government is in constant contact with the Chinese and Iranian governments after the outbreak there. “Pakistani Zaireen (pilgrims) were arriving at the border of Balochistan province, which is a deserted place where the provision of logistics is difficult,” he said, and appreciated the provincial government and the armed forces who did well to handle the situation.

The prime minister referred to the government’s response, which, he said, is continuously following the situation. “Our response started from January 15, as we had started screening of passengers at airports and so far about nine hundred thousand people have been screened out,” he added.

On February 26, he said, the first coronavirus was reported. “Last week, the National Security Committee meeting was held after the cases surged to 20. They studied the world responses, like in Italy which is in complete lockdown whereas the United Kingdom has a different approach to the situation. The United States did not do anything at first, but now have gone for lockdown of its cities,” he said.

Expressing satisfaction at the availability of face masks, he said in severe cases, the patients can require ventilators and other equipment, and assured that arrangements in this regard are being made.

The prime minister said the core medical committee is continuously advising the government after reviewing the world scenario and the latest experiences. He said from the world experiences, they had fears over spread of virus in Pakistan, but expressed the confidence that they will overcome the situation. He said the symptoms of the COVID-19 bear resemblance to flu or cough, but advised the people that every flu or cough is not related to coronavirus. He said the recovery from COVID-19 is 97 per cent whereas in 90 per cent cases, the sufferers experience only mild symptoms. He said everybody is not required to rush for tests for flu-like symptoms as the hospitals do not have the facilities to cater to all, adding the remedy is to take rest and only in server cases, the people should visit the medical facilities.

The prime minister said the government cannot alone fight the war and cited the efforts put in place by the Chinese government and its people. He urged the people to realize their responsibility and take precautionary measures by avoiding big gatherings, closed rooms and halls. Hand shaking is the main cause of the coronavirus spreading, he said.

The prime minister underlined the role of ulema in creation of mass awareness.

Referring to the issues being faced by Pakistan expatriates after the COVID-19 pandemic, he said the government is fully cognizant of their problems. He said directions have been issued to Pakistani embassies to facilitate them fully.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran Khan warned richer countries to prepare to write off the debts of the world’s poorer states, expressing fear the coronavirus could devastate the economies of developing nations. “My worry is poverty and hunger,” he said. “The world community has to think of some sort of a debt write-off for countries like us, which are very vulnerable, at least that will help us in coping with [coronavirus].”

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