COVID-19: Pakistan unveils economic relief package
Pakistan on Tuesday unveiled a multi-billion rupee economic package to provide relief to citizens, particularly low-income groups whose livelihood has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The package worth 900 billion rupees ($5.66 billion) was approved in a Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and also attended by army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The move followed a countrywide lockdown that has forced millions to stay indoors, and left hundreds of thousands of laborers and daily wage workers bereft of income.
It includes 200 billion rupees ($1.25 billion) for low-income groups, particularly laborers, 280 billion rupees ($1.76 billion) for wheat procurement, apart from a significant reduction in petroleum prices.
Speaking to journalists in the capital Islamabad, Khan said over 5 million people will be provided a monthly stipend of 3,000 rupees ($20) for the next four months.
He said people will also be able to pay electricity and gas bills below a certain amount in installments.
Also, loan interest payments for exporters had been deferred temporarily, while a package of 100 billion rupees ($63 million) was provided to support small industries and the agriculture sector, he added.
Rejecting criticism that his government had failed to take timely decisions, including imposition of a countrywide lockdown, Khan said all available resources were being utilized to combat the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan.
Death toll rises
Pakistan’s seventh COVID-19 death was reported in Lahore, the capital of northeastern Punjab province, on Tuesday, as the number of cases in the country surged over 900.
The latest fatality was a 57-year-old man, according to Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid.
The total number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan has risen to 958, while 13 people have recovered, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.
The data shows more than 396,200 cases have been reported in at least 169 countries since last December, when the virus emerged in Wuhan, China.
The global death toll has gone over 17,200, while more than 103,300 people have recovered.