Imran announces launch of ‘corona relief tigers’
March 28 2020 01:13 AM
People wait
People wait in designated areas marked on the ground to maintain social distancing, as they receive free food from volunteers of the Chhipa Welfare Association in Karachi.


Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced the launch of a youth force labelled “corona relief tigers”, which will lead the fight against the coronavirus in Pakistan.
“Recruitment for corona relief tigers will formally begin on March 31. We are calling upon all volunteers,” he said during a special briefing to the media.
Noting that the coronavirus has spread dramatically across the globe, with the United States emerging as the new epicentre, the premier said: “No one can say today what the situation will be two weeks down the line.”
“That’s why we have to be prepared for the worst case scenario (in Pakistan) in case the number of cases spike,” Khan said.
Referring to President Dr Arif Alvi’s visit to China, during which he was accompanied by Ministers Asad Umar and Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the premier said that the Pakistani delegation asked China how they controlled the situation at a time when there were close to 60,000 cases in Wuhan.
“It is important to note that when they enforced a lockdown, they delivered food to people’s homes,” Khan said.
He said that Pakistani students recalled that the government would send supplies straight to their hostels.
“In Pakistan, this is a tall order. Today, if we want to lockdown, we don’t have the infrastructure to get food to people’s homes,” he said. 
“So I am announcing today, we are developing a special youth force. Preparations for this are in full swing,” the prime minister said. “We will have a membership drive with the citizen’s portal.”
He reminded everyone that “we have the world’s second largest youth population”, which is a great source of strength for the nation.
“The corona relief tigers will be sent all over Pakistan. We will map out where there is a spike in cases and these tigers will be sent to those areas to deliver essential supplies.”
The prime minister also announced a lifting of restrictions on transport.
“We have also decided that factories, edible items and the energy sector [...] industries attached to food items, will continue to function unhampered.
“Our aim is to not have people gather but all the while, there must be no obstruction to the supply side of things.
“This is a difficult balance to strike. We don’t want the virus to spread, and we don’t want to have people dying in our bid to stop the virus,” said the premier.
He said that restrictions on passenger transport will remain in place.
The prime minister said that in the coming week, a “corona fund” will also be announced, which will welcome charitable donations so that the under-privileged can be looked after.
“Data on our daily wagers is being collected. We will also dispense funds from the Ehsas programme, and then this fund will be an added source to help people buy essential items for their families.”
Labelling this an unprecedented initiative and putting stock in people’s charitable spirits, the prime minister said that Pakistanis donate like no other nation in the world.
He recalled earthquakes and floods which had wreaked much damage in the country but put no dent in people’s willingness to help.
“But what happened was there was a duplication of services. There were areas where there was a great amount of work done and some in which there was no one and people were left hungry,” Khan said.
He said with the use of information technology and the Ehsas initiative, everyone who wishes to donate will be registered and will be able to see which areas need the most assistance.
“Everyone will know who is doing what and where.”
The premier acknowledged that in the backdrop of the crisis, Pakistan will see a drop in remittances and foreign exchange reserves will be impacted.
To counter this, he said an account will be opened in State Bank of Pakistan, for which details will be provided on Monday or Tuesday.
“Right now, the Pakistani people are most in need of donations from abroad. I want overseas Pakistanis to deposit their money here so that pressure from our foreign exchange reserves is relieved,” said the prime minister. “This will be the fund that will pull the country out from these difficult times.”
Khan then addressed the matter of a shortage of food items, especially wheat, clarifying that there is only the problem of transporting it due to lockdowns.
Federal Minister for Food Security Khusro Bakhtiar then provided “an exact picture” of the situation.
He said that tabulations for seven essential food items had been done to ascertain their stock across various districts.
“Where there is a shortage, the province will fulfil the demand. We have mapped out the country’s transport needs for this.”

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