ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Monday allocated more than Rs 50 billion to support small and medium-size enterprises as part of its efforts to mitigate the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, even as the number of the COVID-19 cases rose to 13,909 in the country.
The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) in its meeting approved the package under which the government will pay the electricity bills of small traders for three months, whenever they resume their business activities.
"The ECC meeting chaired by Adviser to PM on Finance and Revenue Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh today approves Rs 50.69 billion package to provide indirect cash flow support to small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) through pre-paid electricity," the Ministry of Finance said in a statement.
Under the scheme, commercial consumers would be given support up to Rs 100,000 and industrial consumers up to Rs 450,000 for three months. "Small businesses having a commercial connection of less than five kilowatt and industrial consumers using less than 70 kilowatts can benefit from this initiative," Minister for Industries and Production Hammad Azhar said after the ECC meeting.
The ECC also allocated Rs 75 billion to provide relief to labourers and daily wage workers who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus outbreak. Under the package, Rs 12,000 will be doled out to 4-6 million families, which were not counted in the government's Emergency Cash Programme.
The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman, Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal, said that the country had capacity to conduct 30,000 tests in a day which will be increased to 40,000. He said thatUSD 50 million worth medical supplies purchased from China have arrived in the country.
He also said that Pakistan was in the process of purchasing about 700 ventilators which would be available by the end of June. He said that currently around 4,000 ventilators were available in the country.
Afzal said that Pakistan was currently not importing any personal protective equipment (PPE) as everything was being produced in the country. "The government expects to receive 20,000-50,000 N95 masks from organisations across Pakistan," he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Health Services said that more than 3,000 people have recovered from the coronavirus. It said so far 281 people have died due to the virus, including 12 in the last 24 hours.
According to the ministry, worst-hit Punjab province reported 5,526 cases, Sindh 4,996, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa 1,984, Balochistan 781, Gilgit-Baltistan 318, Islamabad 245 and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir 59 cases. So far 150,756 tests had been done including 6,391 in the last 24 hours.
The government said that an in-camera meeting of the special Parliamentary Committee on Coronavirus Disease will be held at the Parliament House to review the impact of the lockdown on the country's economy.
It will also receive recommendations from representatives of traders and the business community for formulating a strategy to deal with the crisis.
Meanwhile, a media report said that more than 80 per cent of mosques in Punjab and the federal capital did not implement a 20-point agreement reached between the government and clerics regarding the first taraweeh congregations on Friday.
President Arif Alvi visited mosques in Bara Kahu area of Islamabad on Sunday night to see the guidelines were being followed. He directed the mosques administrations to ensure implementation of preventive measures, which were necessary to control spread of COVID-19.
On Saturday, Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA) President Dr Iftikhar Burney warned that mosques are becoming a major source of transmission for the novel coronavirus and urged people to pray at home during Ramzan.
His remarks comes days after Pakistan's top doctors warned of "significant mayhem" and "fatal outcomes" if mosques continue to remain open and urged the government to review its decision to allow congregational prayers during the month of Ramzan.
The Pakistan government early this month succumbed to pressure from the hardline clerics and allowed conditional congregational prayers in mosques during Ramzan.
Meanwhile, at least 400 traders stuck in China for over a month asked the government through a video message to facilitate their return. "We want to spend the holy month of Ramzan with our families and ask the government to arrange for a special flight for our return," they said.