Pakistan has sought USD 3.7 billion additional loan from three multilateral creditors to cope with the economic crisis being posed by the coronavirus outbreak, as the pandemic spread further in the country, infecting over 1,100 people and killing eight so far. In addition to USD 1.4 billion loan from the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank will extend loans of USD 1 billion and USD 1.25 billion respectively to the country, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had earlier announced a Rs 1.2 trillion economic relief package. The number of coronavirus patients in Pakistan has reached to 1,102, according to the latest official data. There were 417 patients in Sindh, 323 in Punjab, 131 in Balochistan, 121 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 84 in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), 25 in Islamabad and 1 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, according to the website of ministry of health services.
So far eight people have died while 21 have recovered. Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said 12 more coronavirus cases were reported, taking the total provincial tally to 131.
KP health official reported 41 new cases as the provincial tally rose to 121. Its worst hit area was Manga village of Mardan district where the virus spread when a man returned from Saudi Arabia after performing pilgrimage (Umra) and invited 2,000 villagers to celebrate it. Reportedly, he hugged everyone. Later, he was tested positive and incidentally was the first to die in Pakistan due to the coronavirus.
Pakistan President Arif Alvi has urged religious scholars to stop all congregational prayers to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus. The move came following a ‘fatwa’ (edict) issued on Wednesday by the Grand Imam Shaikh of Jamia Al Azhar and the Supreme Council in Egypt, saying that head of the state is empowered to stop collective prayers in the current situation.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday paid a visit to an isolation centre in Islamabad, where he was briefed about the arrangements by the chairman of National Disaster Management Authority. Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announced that it will be operating exclusive premium flights for those passengers who need to return home immediately.
The flights will be operated only one way from Pakistan. The decision is effective from March 26 till April 2. Other domestic flight operations will remain suspended. Pakistan has already suspended international flights this week. However, cargo flights are exempted from the flight suspension ban.
Despite increase in the number of positive cases, Khan was still ambivalent on the issue of complete curfew like lockdown, which he said would hit hard the daily wagers and those living below the poverty line. He asked the provinces to continuously reassess the lockdown as it may have serious impact on the economy.
The novel coronavirus – which originated in the central China city of Wuhan towards the end of last December – has now spread to all over the world. The COVID-19 has so far killed over 21,000 of people and infected close to half a million others across the globe. COVID-19 cases witnessed a sharp surge in Pakistan after hundreds pilgrims, who returned from Iran, one of the worst-affected countries, tested positive.
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