Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, addressing the National Assembly session on Monday, emphasised on the need to start economic activity in the country and said that the government has to keep the wheels of the economy running.
Like the rest of the world, Pakistan is also affected by the pandemic, said Qureshi and added that the NA session was called considering the importance of the parliament and after consultation with all parties.
The session was convened under the chair of Deputy Speaker Qasim Suri.
The minister stressed that the novel coronavirus is undoubtedly the biggest crisis to hit since the Second World War. Various measures are being undertaken but experts have yet to find a cure for the virus, he said.
"It might take up to 18 months or two years before a vaccine is developed. However, we have to keep the wheels of the economy running," said the foreign minister.
Qureshi elaborated that over four million people in 209 countries have been infected by the virus and at least 280,700 deaths have been reported and added that no government in the world was prepared for the virus.
"The death toll in the United States stands over 80,000, in Britain 31,000, in Italy 30,000 and 26,000 in France," said Qureshi referring to some of the worst-hit countries, which have been critiqued for delaying their response.
"Pakistan, in comparison, moved swiftly in its response with stringent measures in place soon after the first case was reported."
The federal minister reminded the lower house that the first Covid-19 case in Pakistan was reported in Karachi on February 26. Since then, as of May 10, the number of confirmed cases in Pakistan is over 29,000, he said, adding that at least 661 people have lost their lives to the virus while 8,023 people have recovered from the disease.
At the time, he noted, our testing capacity stood at 100 tests per day. "Now, our capacity is nearly 20,000 tests per day."
"Only eight of our laboratories were equipped with the facilities to conduct testing for the virus when the pandemic hit us. Today, 70 laboratories are carrying out tests across the country."
As of May 10, the foreign minister said, 283, 517 tests have been conducted. He contended that though still inadequate, the country's testing capacity has gradually increased and the government is continuing to work towards increasing it further.
Laying out Pakistan's efforts thus far, the minister said that the NCOC was established on March 27, and since then, it convenes daily from 9 am to 11 am.
All federating units and provincial chief secretaries attend the meeting as the NCOC inspects the latest developments on the pandemic in all four provinces, and works towards a joint-national strategy in consultation with all stakeholders, he added.