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COVID-19: Pakistan, World Bank in talks for $ 200 million loan


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the World Bank with liquidity problems are in talks for up to $ 200 million in loans to improve the ability of 270 resource-deficient public hospitals and laboratories here in the country to control the spread of the deadly spread of coronavirus, according to a media report on Wednesday.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan rose sharply to 237 on Tuesday, amid conflicting statements by authorities about the nation’s first victim due to COVID-19 infection.

Sindh province is the most affected with 172 cases, followed by 26 in Punjab, 16 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan, 5 in Gilgit-Baltistan and 2 in Islamabad, authorities said.

Led by the vice president of the Planning Commission, a concept approval committee approved Monday the “Improving Preparedness and Increasing Response to the COVID-19 Project,” the Express Tribune reported.

According to the newspaper, at this stage, Pakistani authorities expect at least $ 140 million in loans from the World Bank, which wants to increase to $ 200 million.

Following approval of the concept, details of the new loans and the diversion of some of the World Bank’s anti-pandemic loans will be finalized this week, according to government officials.

“The Pakistani government and the World Bank are discussing a $ 100-200 million financial assistance package to effectively respond to the COVID-19 crisis facing Pakistan,” said World Bank local office spokeswoman Mariam. Altaf.

The National Fund for Disaster Risk Management will also contribute around $ 50 million by realigning its existing resources, bringing the total cost of the package to $ 250 million.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said Tuesday that if the coronavirus spreads exponentially, Pakistan does not have the capacity and resources to contain the contagion.

Pakistan faces an acute shortage of resources to combat the pandemic, and its public health system is unable to cope with large numbers of patients if the virus spreads rapidly.

So far, the Punjab government appears to be the most ill-prepared, while the Sindh government has been doing well. The project has been carried out to acquire equipment and consumables for 200 hospitals, including 44 tertiary level hospitals, for the effective clinical management of confirmed cases. Personal protective equipment will be purchased for 200 hospitals, 10 quarantine sites and 42 laboratories.

The technical review of the project has been carried out by six experts from the public health sector, who have given 15 recommendations for a better implementation of the project, including the identification of gaps.

They have also recommended that the National Action Plan revolve around prevention, detection and response, since the country is already beyond the prevention of primary cases. They have suggested that strategies should focus on the detection, response and prevention of future cases.

Experts have recommended using the loan funds to subsidize coronavirus testing in private laboratories that charge Rs 8,000 per test, which is not economical for most of the country’s population.

The head of the World Health Organization has called on countries to guarantee maximum population tests to curb the disease, which Pakistan has not yet adopted as a strategy due to lack of facilities and resources.

Experts have also underlined the need for the government to stock critical equipment and other supplies due to shortages in other countries.

The Pakistani government with liquidity problems has been implementing austerity measures to improve the country’s finances. In July of last year, Pakistan recorded a foreign exchange reserve of less than USD 8 billion, enough to cover just 1.7 months of imports.

The International Monetary Fund formally approved a $ 6 billion loan to Pakistan in July 2019, citing “significant” economic challenges. Pakistan has received billions in financial aid from friendly countries like China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates during the current fiscal year

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