Imran Khan urges world community to grant debt relief as Pakistan’s coronavirus cases reach 5,230

The Global Initiative on Debt Relief will bring together stakeholders on a platform to promote coordinated health and economic response, he said.

April 13, 2020 03:57 am | Updated 03:58 am IST - Islamabad

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan

Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday urged the global community to launch an initiative to give debt relief to developing countries that are fighting the novel coronavirus, as Pakistan reported nearly 450 fresh cases, bringing the total number of the COVID-19 patients to 5,230.

In a video message, Mr. Khan said that highly indebted countries are facing a “lack of fiscal space” that was inhibiting their efforts to prevent the coronavirus from spreading and, at the same time, providing relief to people.

He said a global pandemic cannot be contained without strong, coordinated and well-crafted global response.

The Global Initiative on Debt Relief will bring together stakeholders on a platform to promote coordinated health and economic response, he said.

Noting that COVID-19 posed unprecedented health and economic challenges, Mr. Khan underlined that a global recession worse than the Great Depression was certain.

He noted that during the past week, various announcements have been made by multilateral actors such as the UN, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, including an initial relief packages of $1.4 billion by the IMF and $1 billion by the World Bank.

Mr. Khan invited the UN Secretary General to work with him in advancing the objectives of a coordinated response.

“The proposed Global Initiative aims to lay ground for urgent debt relief to the developing countries, at their request, and without onerous conditionalities,” he said.

While proposing the Initiative, Mr. Khan highlighted that his Government had provided $8 billion stimulus package to help the most vulnerable people in Pakistan.

Mr. Khan entrusted the Foreign Minister and Adviser on Finance to reach out to their respective counterparts for the “Global Initiative on Debt Relief” with the objectives of relieving developing countries of the financial challenge from the COVID-19 pandemic and realizing sustainable development.

His appeal came as the Ministry of National Health Services reported 399 fresh coronavirus cases, bringing the total number of the COVID-19 patients in the country to 5,183.

The nation-wide breakdown of the patients showed that Punjab has 2,464 cases, Sindh 1,411, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 744, Balochistan 228, Gilgit-Baltistan 224 Islamabad 119 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 40.

Death toll passes 80

The ministry also said that 14 more people have died due to COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of fatalities to 86.

It said that 1,026 patients have recovered so far while 37 were reported to be in critical condition. The data showed that so far 61,801 tested were conducted, including 2,805 during the last one day.

Prime Minister’s Advisor on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said that coronavirus was a “preventable problem” and could be curbed if proper measures were taken, as he urged people to observe social distancing and ensure hand hygiene.

He also said that half of the total coronavirus patients were infected due to local transmission. The other half were those who came from abroad.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar told the media that cash distribution was going on and so far over 1.774 million families benefitted from Ehsaas programme to give cash to the poor.

The steady rise in the new cases has been registered despite more than three-week of lockdown in the country which is going to end on Tuesday, but officials said that a decision will be made on Monday whether to increase it or not.

There is high possibility that it would be extended as Dr. Mirza said that the low number of cases could spike if lockdown was completely lifted.

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