LAHORE - Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information and Broadcasting, Dr. Firdous Ashiq Awan has said that to ensure that food-supply chain was not affected in the country; the government will open the essential industry phase-wise.

Talking to the media during a visit to a quarantine centre at Jinnah Hospital, Lahore on Saturday, Dr. Firdous said that the government was in consultation with the industry representatives to chalk-out standard operating procedures (SoPs) regarding health and hygiene of the workers before granting them permission to operate.

The government had lifted ban on the goods transport for maintaining uninterrupted food supply, she said while responding to a question and added that the permission for wheat reaping and the allied industry was part of government’s efforts to save the country from impending economic challenges.

About the construction industry, the SAPM said that the grant of status of industry to the construction sector was a decision aimed at providing jobs to the unemployed labour in the wake of coronavirus pandemic, adding that the government had earmarked Rs 280 billion for procurement of 8.2 million ton wheat in the country to spearhead economic activity.

To another query, Dr. Firdous said that she had visited the hospital on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan to show solidarity with the doctors, paramedics and other staff who were the first line of defense against coronavirus outbreak in the country, adding that the whole nation owed to the doctors and the paramedical staff.

SAPM Dr Fridous Ashiq Awan said that no world economy had any idea that the effect of COVID-19 would be so devastating, adding that even the developed economies of the world had failed to foresee the coronavirus challenge.

She said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had introduced a partial lockdown while ensuring an uninterrupted food-supply chain, creation of a volunteer force and a adoption of a mechanism in this regard.

About non-payment of wages to workers during the lockdown, the SAPM on Information and Broadcasting said that the government was preparing database of the businesses which had not paid to their workers during the 14 days of the lockdown, adding that PM Imran Khan had held meetings with office-bearers of chambers of commerce and mill-owners across the country and the government would pay salaries to workers who are left jobless and it had earmarked 200 billion rupees for the purpose. She said the prime minister had taken a people-friendly initiative to provide food to the needy.

About support to those rendered jobless due to lockdown, she said that 16 million had so far registered for financial support from PM’s Ehsaas Programme, adding that data of 10 million applicants had been verified and they would be transferred 12,000 rupees each from April 5 (Monday) while the rest of 6 million would get the financial support after due process.

“This is unprecedented in the country’s history that a poor person would get Rs 12,000,” she said, adding that the federal government had set aside 150 billion rupees for Ehsaas Progrmme, adding that the Rs 10 billion financial package by the Punjab government was in addition to it.

About the opposition’s role, she urged the need for political harmony in the country, adding that all political parties should work together to curb the deadly virus rather than remaining divided for petty self-interests. She said that coronavirus did not differentiate between political parties and workers; that was why all should put up unified efforts against coronavirus.

About the tiger force, she said it was volunteer force which is a necessity against a treacherous enemy like the coronavirus, adding that the tiger force was needed to ensure delivery of ration at the doorsteps of the needy as the situation was different from a flood or earthquake where people-to-people contact was not prohibited.

About distribution of ration to crowds, she called upon the wealthy to avoid such a situation as it could cause transmission of the virus among the healthy, adding that the ration should be distributed through volunteers at the doorsteps of the needy people at mohallah, town, village and tehsil level. “People must adopt precautionary measures although doctors are there to treat the patients”, she urged.

About ‘Stay home, Stay safe’ campaign, she said the government was doing its best to keep people at their homes by providing the poor with sufficient food, adding that the role of philanthropists was vital in distribution of ration.

To a question, she urged philanthropists to deposit contribution to Prime Minister’s Corona Welfare Relief Fund, adding that all the wealthy and affluent should come forward and provide for the needy during the lockdown.

Earlier, SAPM Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan visited the quarantine centre and PCR (bio-safety) laboratory at the Jinnah Hospital. She hailed services of the medical professionals against COVID-19 and inquired about the health of the coronavirus patients.