ISLAMABAD                -                  Assuring that the government is prepared for the worst-case scenario, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday sounded optimistic that war against coronavirus will be won with the united resolve of the nation.

Talking to TV anchors after chairing the meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) in the capital, the Prime Minister said incremental response is essential because of Pakistan’s peculiar circumstances. The Prime Minister also announced the formation of a special youth force of volunteers dubbed Corona Relief Tigers Force (CRTF) to distribute food at homes among deserving families during a possible complete lockdown in days to come.

He said members of the CRTF will be recruited through the PM Office portal and registration will formally start on March 31.

“The CRTF will be sent all over Pakistan. We will map out where there is a spike in coronavirus cases, these tigers will be sent to those areas to deliver essential food supplies.”

He said that the virus has spread dramatically across the globe, with the United

States emerging as the new epicenter. “No one can say today

 what the situation will be two weeks down the line,” he added.

“That’s why we have to be prepared for the worst-case scenario in case the number of cases spikes,” said the Prime Minister.

Referring to President Alvi’s recent visit to China during which he was accompanied by Asad Umar and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Prime Minister said that the Pakistani delegation asked China how they controlled the situation at a time when there were close to 60,000 cases in Wuhan.

“It is important to note that when they enforced a lockdown, they delivered food to people’s homes.”

He said that Pakistani students recalled that the government would send supplies straight to their hostels.

“In Pakistan, this is a tall order. Today, if we want to lockdown, we don’t have the infrastructure to get food to people’s homes.

He reminded everyone that “we have the world’s second-largest youth population” which is a great source of strength for the nation.

The Prime Minister also announced the establishment of the Corona Fund to welcome charitable donations so that the underprivileged can be looked after.

He said he will open an account in the State Bank of Pakistan next week where donations from overseas Pakistanis will be collected to steer the country out of the economic crisis.

“Data on our daily wagers is being collected. We will also dispense funds from the Ehsas programme and then this fund will be an added source to help people buy essential items for their families.”

Labeling this an unprecedented initiative and putting stock in people’s charitable spirits, the Prime Minister said that Pakistanis donate like no other nation in the world.

He recalled earthquakes and floods which had wreaked much damage in the country but put no dent in people’s willingness to help.

“But what happened was there was a duplication of services. There were areas where there was a great amount of work done and some in which there was no one and people were left hungry,” Imran Khan added.

He said with the use of information technology and the Ehsas initiative, everyone who wishes to donate will be registered and will be able to see which areas need the most assistance.

“Everyone will know who is doing what and where.”

He also announced the lifting of restrictions on goods transport for the smooth running of the supply chain to ensure the availability of essential goods.

“Our aim is to not have people gather but all the while, there must be no obstruction to the supply side of things,” Imran Khan said.

He said today all four provinces; Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan collectively decided that there will be no inter-province restriction on transportation of goods.

It was also decided that industry allied with edible items will also be free from any kind of restriction. However, passenger traffic will remain off the roads.

“This is a difficult balance to strike. We don’t want the virus to spread and we don’t want to have people dying in a bid to stop the virus,” he added.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for National Food Security Makhdoom Khusro Bakhtiar said wheat stock of one point six million tons is available in the country which is sufficient till the harvesting of the next crop.

He said a proper mechanism is being devised with coordination of all provinces for the purchase of wheat.

Special Assistant on National Health Services Dr. Zafar Mirza said personal protection equipment will be available to all frontline health staff by the fifth of next month.

He said a short crash course will be imparted to doctors, nurses and paramedics in the next four to five weeks to deal with the pandemic situations.

Planning Minister Asad Umar said today’s NCC meeting decided that a list of essential items will be formulated to gauge the needs of the country.

Earlier, the NCC meeting took an overview of the situation arising out of coronavirus and measures to cope with it.

The participants gave a practical demonstration of the precautionary measures to avoid coronavirus by observing social distance in their seating arrangement.