ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Sunday decided that highways and roads across the country would remain open to ensure the transportation of goods and also increase the number of freight trains to avert a shortage of food and other essential supplies amid the lockdown imposed by provinces to stem the spread of coronavirus infections.
The Centre also pledged to also ensure that all provinces benefitted from the COVID-19 relief package it had announced earlier and food and protective gear were supplied to all parts of the country.
Chairing a meeting of the PTI core committee, Prime Minister Imran Khan reviewed the challenges faced by the nation following the outbreak of the disease in the country and would present a roadmap on Monday (today) to overcome them.
He directed the national food security minister to ensure the availability of essential edibles, particularly flour, across the country. He also asked the provincial governments to take strict action against hoarders and profiteers, who were trying to exploit the ongoing crisis.
Communications Minister Murad Saeed informed the prime minister that goods transport in the country had come to a halt become of the lockdown imposed by provinces.
The premier ordered coordination between the federal and provincial governments for the revival of the goods transport.
A special package for Pakistan Railways was also discussed during the meeting. The matter will be taken up at the meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet. The premier ordered the railways minister to immediately run more freight trains to ensure the transportation of goods across the country.
“The prime minister has renewed his pledge to ensure the delivery of food supplies to deserving poor families across the country [amid the lockdown] at their doorsteps,” PM’s aide on information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters on Sunday after the meeting.
She added that the all provinces would benefit from the federal government’s relief package regardless of political affiliation, indirectly referring to Sindh where the PPP is in power. “This is not the time for politics,” she said.
It was also decided that if a doctor or a paramedic died while treating coronavirus patients, they would be considered martyrs. Their families will receive the package that is given to martyrs,” the PM’s aide said.
In addition, the Punjab government will give an additional salary to doctors and paramedics In recognition of their services.
In the next National Coordination Committee meeting, steps will be discussed to resume the supply of goods needed by industrial units and the construction sector to prevent workers from losing their jobs.
“Labourers and daily-wage workers are our first priority,” Firdous said.
Personal protective equipment (PPEs) for media personnel has been allocated in consultation with the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA). "Media personnel visiting ICUs, quarantines and covering emergency situations will be provided with PPEs and safety kits,” the PM’s aide added.
Firdous further said the prime minister had faith in the country’s youth. “He [prime minister] wants the youth force volunteers to ensure the supply of food to deserving people.”
Briefing the meeting, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar said his government had allocated Rs10 billion to provide financial assistance of Rs4,000 every month to 250,000 deserving people in the province. Those receiving financial support through the Benazir Income Support Programme are not included in this list.
The chief minister also informed the meeting that laboratories in the province would test 3,200 people every day for coronavirus and 10,000 doctors and paramedics were being recruited.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mehmood Khan informed the meeting that his government had announced a Rs11.40 billion package for 000 deserving families in the province.
(With input from agencies)