PTI govt launches $595m ‘response plan’ to combat coronavirus
Shah Mehmood Qureshi says saving people both from pandemic, hunger are utmost priorities of govt
ISLAMABAD: The government on Thursday launched $595 million Pakistan’s Preparedness and Response Plan (PPRP) in a bid to suppress and mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
The initial response plan intends to strengthen Pakistan’s capacity in emergency prevention, preparedness, response and relief and build health systems for a period of nine months from April to December 2020.
Addressing the launching ceremony of the PPRP virtually, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said, “Saving the people both from the pandemic and hunger are the utmost priorities of the government.”
Qureshi acknowledged and appreciated the efforts of all stakeholders involved in the preparation of the PPRP and especially paid tribute to the fearless health workers, doctors, nurses and paramedic staff for their services to the people of Pakistan.
The foreign minister hailed Pakistan’s inclusive approach and collective response from the leadership towards Covid-19.
The foreign minister was joined by Federal Minister for Economic Affairs Khusro Bakhtiar, representatives of National Disaster Management Authority, the United Nations, World Health Organisation (WHO), World Bank (WB), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and other partners from the diplomatic community notably China, the EU, the US, Canada, France, Republic of Korea and Australia.
A large number of representatives of UN agencies, international organisations, INGOs and media persons joined the launch virtually as well.
Referring to the PPRP as the “blueprint” for Pakistan to fill the gaps to combat Covid-19 in Pakistan, the foreign minister stated that the virus was a “wakeup call for the world” and global solidarity was needed more than ever.
He urged the global leaders to come together against a “common enemy”.
“The socioeconomic impact of the virus cannot be separated from the health response.” Referring to the Prime Minister’s ‘Global initiative on Debt Relief’, he said that the government of Pakistan was reaching out to all relevant stakeholders to craft a comprehensive response to the financial impacts of Covid-19.
He thanked the international partners for the zeal and readiness to respond to the needs of the people of Pakistan amidst Covid-19.
Minister Bakhtiar welcomed the G20 announcement on debt relief as well as programmes and support of the International Monetary Fund, the WB and other international financial institutions (IFIs).
Referring to the government’s package of around $8 billion to combat Covid-19, he added that “adequate and meaningful engagement” of multilateral development banks (MDBs) to support the “debt relief efforts and risk management to the economies of the developing countries, like Pakistan, is essential”.
Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal, the chairman of the NDMA, underlined that the exceptional humanitarian circumstances due to this global crisis demanded immediate global attention. “Support must be given to developing countries like Pakistan to enable them to reduce risk to the population and provide optimal response, recovery and rehabilitation against the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The response plan calls on all partners to act together and utilise their resources and expertise to help implement a coordinated response across the country at federal and provincial levels.
More specifically, all partners will work towards: scaling up emergency response mechanisms to ensure a whole-of-country and whole-of-society approach; launching mass public awareness campaigns on Covid-19; delivering essential case finding, contact tracing and management in quarantine and isolation facilities; expanding surveillance to capture and monitor disease outbreak trends; delivering essential public health measures to contain the spread of the virus such as social distancing; delivering essential laboratory equipment and capacity building to adequately test for the virus; enhancing the capacity of the health system to cope with the surge in patients through delivery of medical supplies and implementation of surge plans; providing emergency cash transfers, food rations and support educational activities.
Speaking on behalf of the partners, Tedros Adhanom, the director general of the World Health Organisation, said, “The Covid-19 outbreak is creating significant additional pressure on an already overburdened health system, exacerbating the vulnerabilities of affected populations. With the fast-moving spread of the pandemic, Pakistan requires, now, more than ever, flexible and timely funding, so that it can be allocated quickly to where it is most needed.”
To kick-start the response plan, the World Bank has immediately made available a $240 million package to help Pakistan take effective and timely action to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our support to Pakistan will help the country enhance its healthcare system to better respond to Covid-19, especially as the outbreak continues to evolve rapidly and affects the vulnerable Pakistanis the most,” said Hartwig Schafer, the WB regional vice president for South Asia.
He also emphasised the importance of support to mitigate the socioeconomic impacts of the crisis, which the WB is also providing. ADB Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susantono said, “We are fully committed to helping Pakistan manage this crisis in close coordination with the IMF, the WB, the UN system and the global community. We will mobilise flexible and timely financing for the public health response, expand social support and help to bring about the gradual recovery of the economy.” The ADB has already approved more than $52 million in support of Pakistan’s Covid-19 pandemic response.
All participants shared their common aspiration that acting together in solidarity, these efforts would help reduce the social and financial impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable people in society during these difficult times and support economic resilience and recovery.They collectively called on everyone to commit to stemming the impact of Covid-19 in Pakistan and containing the virus by providing the strongest possible support to the response plan.