Pakistan has sought USD 3.7 billion additional loan from three multilateral creditors to cope with the economic crisis being posed by the coronavirus outbreak, as the pandemic spread further in the country, infecting nearly 1,200 people and killing nine so far.
In addition to USD 1.4 billion loan from the IMF, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank will extend loans of USD 1 billion and USD 1.25 billion respectively to the country, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Abdul Hafeez Shaikh said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had earlier announced a Rs 1.2 trillion economic relief package.
The number of coronavirus patients in Pakistan has reached to 1,179, according to the latest official data.
There were 421 patients in Sindh, 394 in Punjab, 131 in Balochistan, 123 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 84 in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), 25 in Islamabad and 1 in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, according to the website of ministry of health services.
There was another death due to the virus, taking the toll to 9, while 28 patients have recovered so far and 5 were in critical conditions. So far 77 new cases have been reported on Thursday, according to official website.
Slight improvement was seen in worst-hit Sindh as the number of new cases slowed but it was increasing in Punjab, Balochistan, KP, GB and federal capital areas.
Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani said 12 more coronavirus cases were reported, taking the total provincial tally to 131.
KP health official reported 43 new cases as the provincial tally rose to 123. Its worst hit area was Manga village of Mardan district where the virus spread when a man returned from Saudi Arabia after performing pilgrimage (Umra) and invited 2,000 villagers to celebrate it. Reportedly, he hugged everyone.
Later, he was tested positive and incidentally was the first to die in Pakistan due to the coronavirus.
Pakistan President Arif Alvi has urged religious scholars to stop all congregational prayers to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The move came following a ‘fatwa’ (edict) issued on Wednesday by the Grand Imam Shaikh of Jamia Al Azhar and the Supreme Council in Egypt, saying that head of the state is empowered to stop collective prayers in the current situation.
The clerics informed the president that over 3 million madrassa students were sent homes after closing seminaries.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday paid a visit to an isolation centre in Islamabad, where he was briefed about the arrangements by the chairman of National Disaster Management Authority.
Separately, Prime Minister Khan chaired a meeting of National Core Committee to evaluate response to contain the virus.
Planning Minister Asad Umar told the media after the meeting that it was decided to keep education institutions across the country shut until May 31.
Also, the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) was not allowed by the government to fly four special flights to Toronto, London, Manchester and Birmingham amid a rise in the number of coronavirus cases across the United Kingdom and North America.
Earlier, the PIA announced that it will be operating exclusive premium flights for those passengers who need to return home immediately.
Pakistan has already suspended international flights this week. However, cargo flights are exempted from the flight suspension ban.
Despite increase in the number of positive cases, Khan was still ambivalent on the issue of complete curfew like lockdown, which he said would hit hard the daily wagers and those living below the poverty line.
He asked the provinces to continuously reassess the lockdown as it may have serious impact on the economy.
Meanwhile, to ease the burden on jails and reduce chances of infection in prisons, Sindh province has decided to release 829 under-trial prisoners on the directives of the Sindh High Court Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M. Shaikh.
Similar steps were already taken in the federal capital areas on the direction of the Islamabad High Court.
Also, all 104 members of the Senate or the upper house have decided to donate one month’s salary to the emergency fund set up by the government to deal with the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
However, Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani would donate three months’ salary to the fund.
The Pakistan economy was feeling the heat of local and global lockdown and the currency lost Rs 4.40 to reach at Rs166 against the US dollar in intraday trade in the interbank market.
It showed that rupee tanked to all-time low of Rs 164.05 on June 27, 2019.
The lockdown in various provinces and areas was going on and the number of people on road was considerably low. Though, there was instances where people were seen together and some of them arrested by police.
Police also arrested a groom and wedding guests in Pakpattan area of Punjab after they assembled for the marriage ceremony in violation of ban on all such gatherings.
The novel coronavirus – which originated in the central China city of Wuhan towards the end of last December – has now spread to all over the world. The COVID-19 has so far killed over 21,000 of people and infected close to half a million others across the globe.
COVID-19 cases witnessed a sharp surge in Pakistan after hundreds pilgrims, who returned from Iran, one of the worst-affected countries, tested positive.