ISLAMABAD - Federal Minister Asad Umar on Tuesday said that the government will be starting monetary assistance under Ehsaas Programme to lower-income families who have been suffering financially during the pandemic from Thursday. “Through our Ehsaas programme, we want to help 12 million lower-income families who have been suffering financially during this pandemic. Starting day after tomorrow, cheques will start going out. Four million families will get monetary assistance in the first phase,” said Asad Umar.

He was addressing the media along with State Minister for Health Dr. Zafar Mirza at the National Command and Operation Centre’s (NCOC) headquarters in Islamabad. He said 16,923 distribution sites have been established for this purpose.

Planning Minister Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC, dispelled the notion that Pakistanis are immune to the novel coronavirus, noting that so far more than 50 people had died while more than 20 had been shifted on the ventilator.

He added that Pakistan would be able to conduct 25,000 tests per day by the month’s end. He said that last month, the country was struggling to conduct even 1,000 tests in a day but the capacity was being increased rapidly.

He urged his countrymen to take precautions to protect themselves and others from the virus.

“Pakistanis are very self-confident and brave and that’s a good thing but that doesn’t mean we are somehow immune from contracting COVID-19. Any of us can contract the virus. And, those of you who are rich and think that having the services of a good doctor will protect them, let me remind you of Boris Johnson, who despite being the Prime Minister of a prosperous country with excellent healthcare like Britain, is in the ICU at this very moment.”

 

 

Asad Umar said that the federal government has decided to directly provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to hospitals across the country without involving provincial governments. He said that healthcare in Pakistan is a devolved matter and thus it is the responsibility of the provinces to provide PPEs to frontline medics in this time of crisis. But he argued that since it was a time of emergency, the government’s decision to deal with the hospitals directly while circumventing provincial authority was prudent and timely to ensure that there are no more delays in the distribution of medical equipment.

 

“We have identified approximately 400 hospitals across the country for this purpose. But we will prioritise 153 hospitals that have 5 or more ventilators before moving on to others.”

 

Dr Zafar Mirza, speaking on the occasion, said that the sudden spike in number of coronavirus cases is due to the addition of test results of people living in quarantine centers. He said the curve of coronavirus cases can be flattened in Pakistan through mass testing.

 

 

He revealed that in Pakistan, 163 tests were being conducted per one million people. In comparison, 50 tests per one million are being carried out in India and 964 per million in Iran. He acknowledged that the figure of 163 tests per million was not enough, and added that all efforts were being put in to increase the testing capacity.