Pandemic response: Medical equipment to reach Pakistan on Thursday, says health ministry

Pharmacy employees wearing facemasks as a preventive measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus attend to customers in Islamabad on March 23, 2020. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 25 March 2020

Pandemic response: Medical equipment to reach Pakistan on Thursday, says health ministry

  • Health director general says 2 million test kits from China will arrive by the end of month
  • Ministry of Planning allocated $238 million from the World Bank for COVID-19 emergency response

ISLAMABAD: A major shipment of clinical and diagnostic equipment to deal with the coronavirus pandemic is going to arrive in Pakistan on Thursday, a senior health official told Arab News.
“This procurement of medical equipment was done through UNICEF in coordination with the Ministry of Health. We have focused not only on clinical but also diagnostic equipment for our medical teams,” Malik Muhammad Safi, director general for health, told Arab News on Wednesday. He added that personal safety equipment such as N-95 masks and protective wear for medical workers have also been purchased.
The Ministry of Planning allocated $238 million from the World Bank for COVID-19 emergency response and to address the socio-economic disruption the outbreak has caused.
“This amount of $238 million from the World Bank is a soft loan and to be utilized through UNICEF,” Safi said.
“We have also ordered medical equipment like ventilators and testing lab kits. Once this consignment will be delivered to us by UNICEF, we will use it to establish 42 testing labs at each divisional headquarters of Pakistan,” he said, adding that the ministry has already established testing labs in Peshawar, Gilgit, Quetta, Taftan, Lahore, and Karachi.
Meanwhile, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is developing locally made testing kits.
“We have acquired sufficient quantity of testing kits and NIH has sent 2,000 kits to Punjab and 1,000 to Gilgit-Baltistan on Tuesday. One kit can take around 96 tests. We have also procured another 2 million kits from China, which will arrive by the end of month,” Safi said.
The National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF) granted $50 million to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Wednesday to deal with the health crisis.
“This funding is for six months duration with an objective to effectively respond to minimize impact of coronavirus, through surveillance strengthening, case management, infection prevention and protection of medical and para medical staff through provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other materials for COVID-19 response,” the NDMA said in a statement.
The World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Money Fund (IMF) have announced $14 billion, $6.5 billion and $50 billion respectively in initial packages to support companies and countries in their efforts to prevent, detect and respond to the rapid spread of COVID-19.


Daily wagers say government’s virus relief package won’t cover minimum needs

Updated 30 March 2020

Daily wagers say government’s virus relief package won’t cover minimum needs

  • Assistance to reach 3 million workers — less than a half of the affected, according workers’ association
  • The support package is part of the government’s Rs1.2 trillion scheme to minimize the impacts of the pandemic

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani government on Monday approved Rs17,500 ($106) monthly cash assistance for around 3 million daily wage workers who lost their jobs amid cutbacks and shutdowns over the coronavirus crisis. The amount may be insufficient for them to survive.

“Something is better than nothing in this critical time, but this amount (17,500 rupees) isn’t enough even for a small family of five members to get by, ” Zahoor Awan, secretary general of the Pakistan Workers’ Federation (PWF), told Arab News.

“A small family needs at least 50,000 rupees per month to fulfill all its expenses including house rent, food and utilities,” he said.

The Rs200 billion financial support package is part of the government’s Rs1.2 trillion fiscal stimulus scheme to minimize the adverse impacts of the disease outbreak on the country’s fragile economy.

“It was estimated that around 3 million workers will fall in this category and they will have to be paid a minimum wage of Rs17,500 ($106) per month,” the government’s Economic Coordination Committee said in a statement on Monday.
The government will disburse the money to workers through provincial labor departments.

“This is a substantial and major commitment from the government at this difficult time,” Khurram Husain, business analyst and editor at Dawn daily, told Arab News, adding that the labor departments will have to generate “authentic data” on the workers for the funds to be fairly distributed.

However, the very data on which ECC based its relief may be unreflective of the reality. 

While the ECC estimates that 3 million daily wage workers have been affected by the shutdown of commercial activity across the country, according to PWF’s Awan the number is at least 7 million.

He said the government’s package covers only the formal industrial sector. “What about those thousands working in small hotels, shops, self-employed, and others who aren’t registered with labor departments?” he said, adding that it is necessary for the government to broaden its definition of daily wage earners.

Ghulam Mustafa, a daily wager at a textile mill in Chakwal, said that prior to the business shutdown his monthly income was Rs26,000.

“It’s impossible to meet all the expenses with Rs17,500,” he told Arab News. “The government should waive off our utility bills along with this allowance.”