ISLAMABAD :Prime Minister Imran Khan stressing on the need of fighting war against Coronavirus with unity and sagacity on Monday announced “PM’s Relief Fund for COVID-19” and a youth force to effectively tackle the situation arising out of the deadly contagion which has so far killed over 30,000 people across the world.
Addressing the nation over radio and television, he urged people including the Overseas Pakistanis to contribute generously in the PM’s Relief Fund for COVID-19 for which an account “NBPaqAPKKAMBR-4162786786” had been opened at the main branch of National Bank of Pakistan Karachi and would be operative from April 1.
The prime minister said those contributing in the PM’s Relief Fund would not be asked any question about the source of their funds, rather they would be given tax incentives.
He said the money raised through this fund would be used for giving financial assistance to the poor people hit by the COVID-19 at their doorsteps, through Ehsas Programme.
The prime minister also announced “Corona Tiger Force” to help the government and institutions to reach out to the poor people affected by the lockdown in the wake of COVID-19 and provide them with food and other essential items.
“God forbids, if Coronavirus spreads, this youth force in coordination with army and administration will reach out to the poor people,” he said and added that this force besides supplying food and other essential items to the poor, would also help create awareness among people about self-quarantine and other safety measures.
The prime minister said the youth from all segments of society including young doctors, nurses and others could join the Corona Tiger Force. The whole operation of the force would be organized and coordinated by a data cell from the PM Office.
Besides, he said, the State Bank of Pakistan had decided to offer soft loans to those industries and factories who would not lay off their employees and laborers in this situation.
The prime minister further said the philanthropists engaged in the charity work in the wake of Coronavirus should get themselves registered at Ehsas Programme, so that a coordinated effort could be made without any duplication and neglecting any segment.
The prime minister said that he was addressing the nation at a critical time when the whole world was fighting a war against coronavirus by employing their available capacities and resources.
Only one country in this fight had yet emerged successful and that was China which had put a population of about 11 million in Wuhan city under a lockdown, thus, controlling the further spread of virus, he added.
“If we have the same situation, I will have opted for closure of cities here, but we have a serious problem as 25 per cent of our population is living below the poverty line with further 20 per cent population hovering around this line, which means a total of 80-90 million population can head towards complete hunger in that case,” he added.
The prime minister declared that no lockdown could be successful by neglecting the same segments of society and mentioned the Katchi abadis, where clusters of poor families and daily wagers, comprising eight to nine members had been living.
Prime Minister Khan said the coronavirus had no discrimination between the rich and the poor. If the people in posh areas considered themselves immune from contracting the virus, it was a misconception as the virus had been attacking all without discrimination.
“Look around the world what is happening! Even the United Kingdom premier was tested positive with coronavirus,” he added.
The prime minister urged the nation to fight the coronavirus threat through collective efforts.
The rich countries could not fight it alone despite having huge resources, he said and referred to the neighbouring country, India where Prime Minister Modi had to tender apology to the nation over the lockdown issue. The people were on roads as they were facing hunger and death.
The prime minister said India now faced the danger of people being infected with the virus at large scale once this lockdown was lifted. The people could die of hunger there.
The prime minister while further elaborating his point said that he wanted to tell the nation to fight the war with sagacity and prudence while keeping in view the country’s situation, If the country or any area was put under lockdown, then they would have to serve the each household with foodstuff.
Terming his relief package worth US$8 billion which he announced last week as the biggest one in the country’s history, the prime minister also compared it with that of US government which had committed a huge sum of US$2000 billion because they had rich resources.
The prime minister expressing his confidence in the nation’s capabilities said it possessed the value of ‘faith’ as the biggest resource. The same quality was imbibed in the nation by its founding father Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah with his famous quote of ‘unity, faith and discipline’.
He maintained that with this virtue of faith, Pakistani nation had been the biggest alms giving nation in the world, besides, possessing the huge youth bulge, ranking it second among the world community.
With utilization of these resources (powers), they can fight the coronavirus threat, he said.
The prime minister also warned the hoarders and profiteers from creation of artificial shortage of edible items which gave rise to panic and price hike, thus directly impacting the poor people.
Reiterating that country had no shortage of grains, he said that he wanted to remind the hoarders who often wanted to mint money out of such situation, that state would take the strict action leading to exemplary punishment.
The prime minister also advised the people to adopt the social distancing as effective precautionary measure by avoiding gathering as such frequent social mingling could lead to spread of coronavirus.
Without practicing precautionary measures, the people could be putting the lives of others in danger especially the older ones.
The prime minister referring to the State of Madina established by the Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him), said it had been the role model for the whole world as being the first welfare state. It took the responsibility of the vulnerable sections of society.
Pakistan also came into being in the name of Islam. Similarly, unless the people in the Katchi abadis were taken care of, they could not win the war against coronavirus.
He called upon the nation to show a spirit of sacrifice and affection as manifested by Ansar towards Mohajir during the migration from Makkah.
The prime minister said the same spirit was required to defeat the hoarders and profiteers.
He also cautioned that at this stage, they could not predict the spread of virus infection; however, they were regularly monitoring the situation and would be able to inform over the evolving situation after a week.
The prime minister also shared his worry over the way people often looked down upon the infected people.
He said the virus posed threat to only old and vulnerable segments. Hardly only 4 to 5 per cent with acute illness were required to visit hospitals.
The prime minister said that they wanted the relief efforts to be carried out in a coordinated way by all the stakeholders with the government serving as a guiding force. He also shared his experiences of relief activities when the country was devastated with floods and quake in the past.
He said they wanted all the welfare institutions to coordinate and ensure that the resources should not be wasted.
How to make the new ‘Living with Covid’ plan work for your small business
The UK government has confirmed that England will end all Covid self-isolation laws on Thursday, as part of its ‘Living with Covid’ plan. What does this mean for SMEs?
Earlier this month, Boris Johnson announced that all Covid-19 rules in England will be scrapped by the end of February.
The new plan has major implications for small businesses, including scrapping the requirement for individuals to self-isolate if they test positive for Covid-19.
Free mass testing is also scheduled to end on April 1.
Below, we look at what exactly the changes are, what they mean for small business owners, and how you can support and prepare your workforce for ‘Living with Covid’.
What is England’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan?
Boris Johnson’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan will take place over three stages.
The first stage has already taken place. New rules introduced on February 21 mean that staff and students in most education and childcare settings no longer have to test twice weekly.
But the change that will have the biggest impact on small businesses is the scrapping of all self-isolation rules from 24 February.
That means people with Covid will no longer be legally required to self-isolate for the previously-required period of five days.
Other new rules include:
- Guidance will remain that those who test positive stay at home for five days
- Contact tracing will end
- Workers will no longer need to tell their employer if they need to self-isolate
- Self-isolation support payments for those on low incomes will be scrapped
From 1 April:
- Covid-19 tests will no longer be free except for the most vulnerable
- Covid passports will be scrapped (except for international travel)
- Employers will no longer have to explicitly consider Covid in their health and safety risk assessments
The plan Boris Johnson has announced to end all legal restrictions is for England only. Restrictions remain in place in other parts of the UK.What do small business leaders think of the announcement?
In a press release, Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair Mike Cherry said: “Small firms right across England will be hoping that this week definitively marks the end of chopping and changing restrictions that have blighted them over the past two years.
“The priority now must be containing the virus and protecting community wellbeing whilst avoiding the need to shut down the economy entirely.”
What if my employees test positive for Covid-19?
The scrapping of Covid-19 self-isolation laws puts the responsibility of managing Covid-positive employees onto the business owner.
This means employers are in a slightly trickier situation when it comes to sick policies.
The government has said that ‘guidance’ will remain in place for those who test positive to stay at home and avoid contact with others for at least five full days.
But the lack of legal rules is likely to result in individuals attending the workplace whilst either positive for Covid-19 or showing symptoms.
With the majority of the UK adult population now fully-vaccinated, symptoms will be milder. It would be unusual for someone to take a week off work because of a cold, and it’s likely only those with serious and/or debilitating Covid-19 symptoms will take time off work.
How can I support members of staff who might be worried about testing positive?
Regardless of the law, the government’s new plan may raise difficult issues for employers, who need to walk a thin line between living with Covid-19 and ensuring the safety of staff.
Many employers have chosen the latter option in the past.
Indeed, data from employee parking software ParkOffice has shown that employers allowed their staff to abandon the office enmasse during the spread of the Omicron variant pre-Christmas, despite there being no official Government advice to restrict movement.
Over the four week period between late November and the traditional break for Christmas, ParkOffice found there was a massive 92.5% decline in office goers across the UK.
As more people return to the office, your staff might want to avoid individuals who attend the workplace whilst positive for Covid-19 because they feel it is unsafe.
Legally, employers have a duty to support these employees and manage risks to those affected by their business. Here are a few examples for what that might look like:
Health and safety assessment
While no longer legally required, the way to do this is to carry out a health and safety risk assessment – including the risk of COVID-19 – and to take reasonable steps to mitigate any risks to other employees who might be worried about becoming infected with Covid-19.
The Government’s working safety guidance sets out a range of mitigations employers should consider including identifying poorly ventilated areas and taking steps to improve air flow in these areas.
Run an employee engagement survey and/or forum
Employee feedback surveys are meant to improve productivity by understanding the way your employees think about your company’s current policies and ways of working.
Check the attitude of your workplace towards the new ‘Living with Covid’ plan with an anonymous feedback survey before you decide on any long-term policies.
It might be that your staff are happy to work with people who have tested positive for Covid – or, you might learn that they are unhappy with the new rules and will require more reassurance and support measures.
This is not only a helpful exercise for business leaders, as you can hear concerns and issues directly from your employees. It’s also a good communication channel for staff members to air any grievances and feel they are being listened to.
Similar to this approach is an employee engagement forum. This is essentially a team discussion amongst a handful of volunteers from your workforce who can then share their ideas on a problem and give feedback on how other employees might be feeling.
Implement your own self-isolation policy
If you feel that a large enough majority of your staff are concerned about the government’s new plan, there are more forceful steps you can take.
The end of the legal obligation to self-isolate does not prevent employers from having their own restrictions on workplace attendance for those who test positive for Covid-19 – if you choose to do so.
Typically, these rules would be contained in the employer’s policies and may, for example, stipulate that individuals who either test positive for Covid-19, and/or are displaying symptoms of the virus, work from home until a negative test is taken.
This more assertive action is not without potential risks, and you should make sure to properly communicate your reasoning to staff members to avoid alienating them.
You should also consider:
- Purchasing home-testing kits for employees who are displaying symptoms of Covid-19 and wish to take a test.As free testing has now been scrapped, putting the onus of purchasing a test on your employees could cause friction.
- Choosing to keep in place rules on face-coverings, hand washing and other safety measures should you wish. These might further reassure employees that the workplace is safe to continue working in.
The government’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan means it is now lawful for employees to attend the workplace with Covid-19 or with symptoms.
Still, employers should carry out employee surveys to check the temperature of their staff and keep an eye on the mood of the workplace on Covid-19 issues.
There is still debate about whether or not these restrictions should be lifted and a good employer should ensure they are addressing the concerns of staff members who might not feel safe coming into the office – particularly after nearly two years of living with Covid-19 safety measures.
Open communication through employee surveys and even specialist engagement committees will help your staff to function properly and ensure they feel properly supported.
Consul General of Liberaland in Pakistan Faisal Butt hails Imran Khan’s strategy that reduced Covid-19 Cases in Pakistan .
Lahore: Consul General of Liberland in Pakistan Faisal Butt has appreciated the strategy of the Pakistani government in view of the reduction of corona cases in Pakistan. In his statement, he said that Pakistan has taken better steps to control the spread of corona in comparison to the neighbouring countries .
As a result of these measures , Pakistan is rated amongst the lowest covid 19 cases reported countries . Not only the cases but also the death toll is much less than other countries.
He said that there was no doubt that Pakistan was making progress even in conditions like corona. All the credit goes to the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
Today, other Asian countries, including Europe, also appreciating Imran Khan’s strategy. He further said that the day is not far when the people of Pakistan will be vaccinated and declared a Corona free country.
Referring to the relations between Pakistan and Liberland, he said that Corona has enveloped the whole world, which has hampered relations, imports and exports with many countries. As soon as the situation improves, not only diplomatic but also trade relations between Pakistan and Liberals will be restored.
The Consul General said we are planing to sign the agreements between the Liberland Chamber of Commerce and the Lahore Chamber of Commerce. A plan of action will be announced soon.
What will the post-COVID world look like?
Although virologists have been warning of the risks of a global pandemic since the SARS outbreak in 2003, the world was still mostly unprepared when confronted with the COVID-19 crisis. However, it was also unlucky.
It was unfortunate that the pandemic came in the run-up to a US presidential election that has created an environment as politically polarized as any the country has experienced. As a result, much of the US media coverage of, and debate about, the virus and the global policies needed to deal with its effects have been more about the presidential race rather than the pandemic.
This has obviously had a clear effect on international politics because of the importance of the role of the US and its global leadership.
It was also bad luck that the health crisis came at a time of high tensions between the US and the second largest global power, China, where the virus originated. This further complicated any potential global unified response.
As a result of the global uncertainty, it is difficult to forecast how critical aspects of the crisis, which seems likely to continue for at least another 12 months, will play out in the Middle East, and also what a post-COVID world might look like.
One certainty is that most countries will be forced to shift their focus and resources to domestic matters rather than regional issues.
The virus and the resultant shutdowns imposed to “flatten the curve” of infections have had, and will continue to have, devastating consequences on economies and national budgets. It seems that despite the soft reopening of parts of economies around the world, the current health concerns will prevent a full restoration of business activities for some time, especially if the number of infections and deaths start to rise again after governments relax precautionary measures.
In our increasingly interconnected world, it is difficult to determine whether any country will come out on top economically, and consequently geopolitically, especially given mounting levels of debt.
Countries able to borrow in their own currency seem to be at an advantage; this applies mainly to the US and the EU (if the European countries can unify their policies), and indirectly also explains the current debate in the Gulf about the unpegging of currencies.
Another certainty is that with less money available, wars and proxy wars will become prohibitively expensive and all parties will be forced to scale down their ambitions. As a result, aggression will be reduced and consensus and agreement might be more readily reached. Countries and their allies or proxies who have refused to sit at the negotiation table might now change their minds and mellow, or perhaps even be forced to completely withdraw from conflict zones.
Take Iran, for instance, which has been targeted recently by a successful US policy of maximum pressure. The country is facing problems domestically and, with the added pressure of low oil prices, it will be less able to maintain its financial support to the Houthis in Yemen, the militias in Iraq, and Hezbollah.
Does that mean Tehran will cease its meddling? Nothing is certain but domestic turmoil might force it to do so.
As Iran’s problems have grown, the region has witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic the emergence of a more assertive Turkey. This has happened despite the fact the country is also suffering economically.
It has been a long time in the making. Turkish involvement has spread to many regional issues beyond its normal national security zone. Its involvement in neighboring Syria is understandable, given that the conflict there directly threatens Turkey’s security. More interesting is the Turkish interest in Libya, where Ankara is pushing for a continued presence with no apparent direct threat or rationale to explain this. This is happening while it also increases political rhetoric that promises continued interference in the domestic affairs of Arab countries in the years to come.
A closer look at the issues reveals that Turkey is focusing its involvement on key points on Europe’s energy routes. This is not surprising, as Europe remains Ankara’s main and constant focus. So, Turkey is now directly competing with Russia — the biggest supplier of gas to Europe — in Syria, where Iran is also strongly entrenched as the country is a key Mediterranean access point for its gas and energy deliveries to Europe.
Turkey is challenging Russia for control of the tap that provides Europe with its energy stability, and this explains its involvement in Libya and other countries. The same logic explains Ankara’s negative reaction to the Israeli-Greek-Cypriot gas-pipeline project, EastMed. This motivates its strategy, as it hopes to leverage it to make more gains in the region.
Therefore, we can expect an increased Turkish focus on the Mediterranean and on supply-chain routes and access points for energy, as well as merchandise being shipped from the East to Europe.
On that point, the land routes of China’s Belt and Road Initiative include one that goes through Russia and another that passes through Turkey. This massive project is also something Turkey is well aware of, and Ankara is striving to ensure it has a presence on key points along the BRI’s Maritime Silk Road. Once again, it is being guided not by national security concerns but a desire to increase its regional clout.
It is difficult to forecast how critical aspects of the corona crisis will play out in the Middle East.
Khaled Abou Zahr
While Russia and Turkey face off on the ground over an increasing number of issues, it is interesting to note the apparent lack of any direct involvement by the US or China, the two biggest global powers, and, surprisingly, the total absence of European nations, which should be the most concerned about what is happening.
In weighing how global and regional powers will direct their foreign policies and manage existing conflict zones, their own domestic political, economic and social stability will play an important role.
Yet, apparent weaknesses might invite bold moves and dangerous power-grab attempts. This delicate balance will be the key driver for international policies in the coming years. One might say that uncertainty and volatility have spread from the stock-markets to the geopolitical arena.
- Khaled Abou Zahr is the CEO of Eurabia, a media and tech company. He is also the editor of Al-Watan Al-Arabi.
Courtesy : Arabnews.pk
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