Marriage halls, restaurants becoming Covid hubs: minister

Published October 6, 2020
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Monday said marriage halls and restaurants were becoming main sources for the spread of Covid-19. — APP
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Monday said marriage halls and restaurants were becoming main sources for the spread of Covid-19. — APP

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Monday said marriage halls and restaurants were becoming main sources for the spread of Covid-19.

However, he appreciated the education sector for its adherence to the health guidelines and protocols.

Presiding over the daily meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Covid-19, the minister said marriage halls and restaurants were turning into hubs of the virus, adding the spike could be avoided if standard operating procedures (SOPs) were complied with.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had warned on Sunday that a rise in Covid-19 infections could be expected in winter.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an official present at the NCOC meeting said the next few weeks were critical and decision about closing down eateries and marriage halls could be taken if cases increased further.

Official sees lockdown if cases rise further

The meeting was informed that people had started ignoring the health protocols like wearing of masks and social distancing which was a matter of concern.

Mr Umar said monitoring of disease prevalence and containment measures were important, adding that wearing of masks was the key to controlling the spread of coronavirus.

According to data released by the NCOC, 299,836 people have so far recovered throughout the country, which was a significant number.

As many as 88 ventilators out of 1,912 vents allocated for Covid-19 were in use with no patient on vent in Azad Kashmir and Balochistan on Monday.

Social protection amid Covid-19 crisis

Pakistan has been labelled as one of the top ranked countries in Asia with the highest response to social protection during Covid-19 crisis.

This was revealed in a study at a global e-conference hosted by the International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth (IPC-IG) on Monday.

The study was conducted by Unicef, UN and IPC-IG to assess social protection response, focusing on extensive mapping and overview of how social protection measures were deployed by countries in Asia and the Pacific region during the pandemic.

It said Pakistan covered the highest number of responses to social protection in Asia through Ehsaas Emergency Cash.

Read: WHO chief lauds Pakistan for suppressing Covid-19 while keeping economy afloat

“Afghanistan included many humanitarian interventions; hence Pakistan tops the list,” said Marina Andrade, a researcher from the IPC-IG team.

According to Ms Andrade, “South Asian countries had a larger number of social protection responses to Covid-19 compared to other Asian nations. Regarding coverage, Pakistan, Timor Leste, Tuvalu and Sri Lanka implemented important changes to increase the number of beneficiaries.”

Socialprotection.org is the key initiative of IPC-IG which is supported by the governments of Australia and Germany and is an influential forum of social protection.

With moderation from the Asian Development Bank, the opening panel discussion had a regional focus, particularly on Asia and the Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The country panel on Asia Pacific brought together Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Poverty Alleviation Dr Sania Nishtar, Director of Poverty Alleviation and Social Welfare Indonesia Bapak Maliki and Delegate of Royal Government of Cambodia in charge of Director General of Planning Theng Pagnathun, who discussed social protection responses to Covid-19 in their respective countries.

Sharing the scale and ambition of Ehsaas Emergency Cash, Dr Nishtar said: “Within 10 days of Covid-19 lockdown, the government of Pakistan had launched the programme, providing urgent cash payments to over 15 million households. The $1.25 billion safety-net programme was rolled out at unprecedented speed, designed in the short-term to offer immediate relief in the form of $75 to the poorest and hardest-hit families.”

She further said: “The programme’s end-to-end digital approach, with transparency hard-wired into its design, offers lessons about how to use personal identification systems. By combining phones, internet connectivity and national IDs, we were able to create a digital, demand-based social-protection system, enabling those in distress to seek emergency cash support.”

In her concluding remarks, the PM’s special assistant said: “Overall, the Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme not only helped our country respond to the immediate crisis, providing relief for the poorest households in the country, but also put in place critical building blocks for a stronger and more inclusive financial sector in Pakistan.”

The global e-conference provided an opportunity for taking stock, exchanging information and facilitating learning on social protection responses to Covid-19.

Dr Nishtar also briefed Prime Minister Imran Khan about the study.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2020

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