On Tuesday, Imran Khan addressed all of Pakistan on the Coronavirus pandemic in a televised address, his first address on COVID-19.
As of Tuesday night, 237 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Pakistan with the highest number of cases in Sindh at 172.
While Imran Khan’s speech aimed to calm down the population, which he said was in a “state of panic” due to the coronavirus pandemic, he may have down played the situation and that is concerning – considering that most Pakistanis lack the needed awareness regarding coronavirus and take measures such as social distancing very lightly.
“I want to tell all of you, this virus will spread,” said Imran Khan during his address.
The premier informed the public that while the spread of COVID-19 is rapid, 97 percent of those infected make a full recovery. He also added that 90 percent of people only experience mild symptoms. He highlighted that even the 4 – 5 percent of people who will get critically sick due to coronavirus will overwhelm the healthcare facilities.
Imran Khan shared that 0.9 million people have been screened for the coronavirus till date as screenings were stated at airports following the government’s decision to take action on January 15.
After 20 cases emerged in Pakistan, a meeting of the National Security Committee to study the response of different countries in dealing with the spread of the virus.
The government placed a ban on public gatherings, closed education institutions and formed a national coordination committee
Imran Khan stated that it was suggested that cities be placed under lockdown, but it would not be possible due to the country’s economic situation.
“Pakistan’s [economic] situation is not the same as that of the United States or Europe. There is poverty in our country, with 25pc of the people living in extreme poverty.”
The prime minster shared his concern that placing cities under lockdown could result in people “dying from hunger” as the national economy is recovering from a “very difficult time”.
Funds have been activated and provided to the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), to acquire the necessary medical equipment including ventilators from abroad.
A core committee of medical experts has also been tasked with monitoring the world’s response to the pandemic and is advising the government. President Arif Alvi is also visiting Beijing, China to learn what measures Pakistan can take.
A third committee has also been set us to assess the impact the virus will have on Pakistan’s economy. The committee will also suggest helpful measures; PM Imran Khan predicted the biggest impact will be seen in exports and businesses. Khan’s government will also talk to the International Monetary Fund so relief may be given to industries and exporters.
“There will be a severe reaction from the government against you,” the prime minister said while directly addressing hoarders. “The state will act against you and punish you if somebody tries to take advantage of people’s difficulties again.”
The committee overseeing the economic impact of the virus will also be responsible for ensuring that food inflation does not take place in the country due to the virus. “I fear that an attempt will be made to cause inflation as was done by hoarding sugar and wheat stocks,” stated PM Imran Khan.
The prime minister said the government cannot fight the “war” against coronavirus alone. “We have to win this war as a nation.”
Prime Minister Imran also urged ulema to “continuously counsel” people on what precautions they should take and how to go through this “difficult period”.
The COVID-19 outbreak, which first emerged in China in 2019, has infected more than 180,000 people and killed over 7,000 globally.