PM urges nation to learn to live with pandemic

Updated 16 May 2020

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Pakistani firm to start production of antiviral Remdesivir; govt makes mask wearing mandatory at public places. — Twitter/File
Pakistani firm to start production of antiviral Remdesivir; govt makes mask wearing mandatory at public places. — Twitter/File

• Pakistani firm to start production of antiviral Remdesivir
• Govt makes mask wearing mandatory at public places

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday said that the country could not afford an indefinite lockdown and the nation would have to learn to live with the pandemic.

At a press briefing along with some cabinet members, Mr Khan said he wanted to tell the country’s medical community that lifting of lockdown was imperative to provide jobs to 25 million informal labourers and workers, who had become jobless due to lockdown.

In a related development, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza announced that Pakistan will soon start production of antiviral Remdesivir that has shown promising results in treating Covid-19 patients in the US.

The medicine would be marketed in six to eight weeks and exported to 127 countries, said Mr Mirza while addressing a separate presser along with the chief executive of a local pharmaceutical company.

About the antiviral Remdesivir, the PM’s aide said the medicine was being manufactured by a US firm, Gilead Science Inc (GSI). He said the firm had signed an agreement with a Pakistani pharmaceutical firm, BF Bio-Sciences, two days ago.

“We should take pride in that only six pharmaceutical companies have been given licences to manufacture Remdesivir and the local firm is one of the three companies which have been allowed to export the drug to 127 states,” he said.

Dr Mirza claimed that the drug had successfully been used in the US, where 30 per cent decline was reported in coronavirus cases.

He said: “We are also ensuring that the price of Remdesivir would be affordable to everyone.”

He said Prime Minister Khan had talked to the GSI owners through video conferencing and assured them of the quality of the medicine if allowed to be produced in Pakistan by GSI. “Gilead has given non-exclusive voluntary licence to the local company. It is a breakthrough in the fight against Covid-19 as the medicine will have a vast impact,” he said.

BF Bio-Sciences CEO Usman Khalid said: “We will try to keep the price of the medicine affordable to everyone.”

He said the agreement with the US firm had given them an opportunity to improve Pakistan exports.

Meanwhile, the government made it mandatory for everyone to wear mask at public places.

Dr Mirza said the government had earlier only advised people to wear mask, but it had become mandatory for everyone at public places.

“Today a notification is being issued in this regard,” he announced.

At the press briefing, Prime Minister Khan said lifting of lockdown was imperative to provide employment to the 25m people who had lost jobs due to lockdown.

“If a family [of informal workers] has average six members, it means 150 million people were affected due to lockdown,” he added.

He said: “We can contain the virus by imposing lockdown but can we stop it? Scientists have predicted that there will be no vaccine for the virus this year. We will have to learn to live with it.” He maintained that the country could not afford an indefinite lockdown.

Besides the $8 billion stimulus package for poor and common man, he said, the government would start another cash distribution programme from Monday for those daily wage earners who lost their jobs due to lockdown.

“We will give them [who lost jobs] cash from PM relief fund,” he added.

Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar said the country’s hospitals had the capacity to cater coronavirus cases for next six weeks though the cases of Covid-19 were increasing rapidly.

PM’s aide Dr Faisal said due to lockdown many other diseases such as tuberculosis, polio and common immunisation were being neglected.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2020