ISLAMABAD: The first virtual meeting of the Asian Parliamentary Assembly (APA) on the Covid-19 outbreak was held on Thursday.

Speakers from 42 countries, including Senators Nuzhat Sadiq, Mohammad Ali Saif and Zeeshan Khanzada from Pakistan, attended the meeting co-hosted by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and the Asian Parliamentary Assembly.

The meeting focused on the emerging challenges, especially in terms of primary healthcare, including mental health, and decided to adopt best practices to suppress the pandemic and restart the economy of the region in a sustainable and inclusive manner.

The speakers delivered general statements of implications and precautionary measures against Covid-19 and discussed modality of future virtual meetings.

Pakistan upholds assembly’s initiatives to restart activities in view of new realities

A draft declaration was also issued.

Speaking on the occasion, head of the Pakistan delegation Nuzhat Sadiq said that meetings such as these ensure that parliamentarians remain active and uphold their posts as representatives of the people. In pursuit of this goal, she said, Pakistan upholds the initiatives of the APA president and secretary general to restart the activities in view of the new realities faced by the world to share best practices.

She said the coronavirus pandemic was an unprecedented challenge in which every aspect of human life had been affected. Estimates suggest that global economic losses have run close to $9 trillion. In Pakistan, she said, the pandemic had severely hit key sectors of the economy; estimates show that during the fiscal year 2020 growth remained negative. While for the fiscal year 2021 growth is projected to be 2.1 per cent depending on how the pandemic unfolds. To reduce the severity of the pandemic, she said, Pakistan has responded with an emergency stimulus package of Rs1.42tr, with additional spending on healthcare, cash transfers and utility support for households and businesses.

Ms Sadiq said that to normalise life in the long run Pakistan had adopted the smart lockdown strategy that allows many businesses to cushion the economic impact and support vulnerable segments and sectors in the country.

She said that in the health sector it is suggested that the government review the existing trade regulations, both tariff and non-tariff, to ensure timely access to affordable and trustworthy medical help. She said all necessary resources and equipment should be ensured for healthcare workers to minimise operational risks.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2020