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Pakistan launched an initial US$595 million coordinated multi-sectoral Preparedness and Response Plan (PPRP) on Thursday to combat Covid-19, and urged the international community to support the initiative in a bid to suppress and mitigate spread of the coronavirus.

The virtual launch was chaired by Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi who was also joined by Minister for Economic Affairs Division Khosro Bakhtiar, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, Chairman National Disaster Management Authority Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Tedros Adhanom, Vice-President of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Bambang Susantono, and Vice-President World Bank Hartwig Schafer.

Ambassadors and high commissioners of various countries including France, Canada, China, South Korea as well as representatives of the US and Australian embassies also joined the launch through the video link in the event jointly organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the UN's Islamabad office.

In the event, the government launched a virtual appeal to international donors, including International Financial Institutions (IFIs) and friendly countries, to fund and participate in combating the immediate and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on health sector.

In his opening statement, Foreign Minister Qureshi apprised the participants about the challenges being faced by Pakistan to not only save the previous lives from the Covid-19 and also to save people from hunger.

He pointed out that the federal and the provincial governments are making coordinated efforts to effectively respond to the global challenge of the Covid-19, adding that a National Coordination Committee headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan has been constituted, besides setting up National Command and Operation Center to coordinate the efforts and prevent virus outbreak.

He said that Pakistan is calling upon the international community for fiscal space, so that the government is able to effectively deal with the situation.

He said that the role of the World Bank, ADB, Islamic Development Bank, Asian Infrastructure and Development Bank in formulating a policy framework to reduce the economic burden on developing countries is commendable.

Qureshi asserted that the global leadership must come forward to join hands for coordinated efforts to cope with the common challenge

In Pakistan, he said that the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus is 10,513 and 224 people have died, while the number is increasing rapidly.

Despite all these adversities, he added that Pakistan, like other developing countries, is committed to save human lives as well as to stabilize its economy.

Given the spread of the epidemic, he said that the rate of people infected with the virus may increase further in the coming months.

"We have to be prepared to deal with this possible situation," he said, adding that Pakistan needs to increase its testing capacity to 20,000 per day.

He pointed out that Pakistan needs to set up a laboratory in every district of the total 154 districts, adding that the government also needs 10,000 ventilators urgently.

The head of the UK's Department for International Development (DFID) in Pakistan, Annabel Gerry said that there has never been a more important time to deliver our UK aid commitment, and "I'm proud that the UK has so far pledged £744 million of UK aid globally to help end this pandemic as quickly as possible".

In Pakistan, she said that the UK has already committed £2.67m to the World Health Organisation (WHO) to support health assistance, including for the most vulnerable communities.

"We will work in partnership with the Government of Pakistan to provide medical assistance to the seriously ill; building stronger systems to detect the virus; and supporting communities to have the right information to protect themselves and others," she added.

She said that the UK is providing further support to the PPRP through Public Health England, assisting the National Institute of Health in the very important work on data and surveillance systems, laboratory strengthening, and public health planning.

"We are also acutely aware of the potential long-term impacts of the pandemic in Pakistan. So we strongly welcome inclusion of the wider impacts on the health system in the PPRP," she added.

She further said that the UK is also repurposing its existing health programming to support Pakistan.

"The UK stands united with Pakistan in these testing times and ready to do our part in combating the immediate and long-term impacts of Covid-19 crisis," she added.

She reiterated that the UK will continue to work in partnership to lead the international response by using the best of British expertise, science, businesses, NGOs and influence to stop the spread of the global coronavirus outbreak, find a vaccine and save lives around the world.

DG WHO pointed out that Covid-19 is the real threat to Pakistan, adding that the WHO is committed to work together with the Government of Pakistan.

He said that the cases may increase without coordinated efforts.

The ADB's vice-president reiterated the ADB's continued support to Pakistan's efforts to fight the pandemic.

He said that the ADB has committed $50 million to Pakistan and it has recently approved 2.5 million.

On Pakistan's request, he said that the ADB is also going to approve $300 million next month.

"We all must work together to cope with this pandemic. ADB stands ready to assist Pakistan in its efforts to strengthen the social protection initiative and the healthcare system as well as to deal with the economic challenges," he added.

The vice president of the WB said that Pakistan was among the countries to be included in the first quick response of $200 million of which $50 million was made available last month.

The EU ambassador to Pakistan said that the EU has directed $2.5 million as humanitarian assistance to Pakistan, adding that the EU will also make announcement of additional support later.

Chinese Ambassador shared the details of the Chinese support so far given to Pakistan, which included $4 million in cash and other medical equipment to cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

The US Embassy's representative read out the message of the US ambassador, saying that US has committed $10.5 million to support the monitoring and healthcare system.

The Canadian high commissioner said that her country announced the essential support of $2.8 million to Pakistan through its international partners.

Korean envoy said that his country has pledged $300 million assistance to Pakistan, besides 47,000 US dollar contributed by the Korean community living in Pakistan.

The French ambassador said that his country is contributing $80 million under the EU efforts to support Pakistan's initiative against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Representative of the Australian High Commission said that the Australian government had pledged $3.8 million to support Pakistan's healthcare system and reiterated the Australian government's continued support to Pakistan in this fight against the Covid-19.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2020

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