-Dr Yasmeen Rashid
The Consul’s diplomatic correspondent Farhan Khan interviewed Dr. Yasmeen Rashid, Health Minister Punjab on issues relating to COVID-19. Excerpts from the interview:
Dr.Yasmeen Rashid is a dedicated human being, who has devoted her life to serve her nation. She is also a Pakistani politician and social activist who is serving as current Provincial Minister of Punjab for primary, secondary, and specialized healthcare and medical education, since 27 August 2018. She has been a member of the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab, since 15 August 2018. She served as the President of Pakistan Medical Association from 1998 to 2000, and has been the chairperson of the Task Force Women Development, and chairperson of the Women Health Committee in Punjab.
Question: What are your views about COVID-19 pandemic situation in Pakistan compared to developed countries?
Answer: Covid-19 pandemic situation in Pakistan is much better as compared to developed countries and is still under control in the Punjab as well as in other provinces, where fully recovered persons are happily returning back to their homes. We hope that with coordination and cooperation of all stakeholders, we would be able to come out of this critical situation very soon and hopefully after April 30 the situation would be more relaxed in the country.
Q: Since the lockdown, businesses are closed, jobs are insecure. People are getting mentally stressed. what steps will government take for these Issues?
Ans: Indeed, this is a universal issue. Since lockdown almost all over the world people are frustrated and stressed. Given the scale of the stress across the social spectrum, the government is developing a platform for psychological support which was the need of the hour. We have inaugurated the Covid-19 counseling Helpline 0304-1110116. Doctors are available on this helpline to provide advice and guidance.
Q: What SOPs will be adopted for the holy month of Ramzan?
Ans: Ulema have been told to follow Standard Operating Procedures and to educate worshippers to ensure social distancing for their own protection and that of others while praying in mosques.
I hope people would continue following the advisory of the government to limit spread of Coronavirus pandemic. It is the responsibility of the religious leaders to play their due role.
Mosques are planned to be opened but Ulema must coympl with the guidelines issued by the government. People who will not comply with the ordinance and violate the guidelines of the government will be dealt with an iron hand. There is no cure for Covid-19 and prevention is the only way to stay safe.
Q: How would the government provide food supply to poor people in these circumstances?
Ans: The Government, NGOS and rich people are working together for food supply. Government has contacted NGOS who are working in different constituencies for food supply. NGOS providing food for poor people have been asked to register their work to avoid duplication of ration distribution.
Q: What about EHSAS program?
Ans: Ehsaas Emergency Cash program has been planned in the context of the economic hardship being experienced by the vulnerable sections due to the ongoing coronavirus crisis. The financial assistance under the program is meant to help them buy rations so that they don’t go hungry. The program covers 12 million families; 12,000 per family, total budget Rs. 144 billion. An SMS campaign will be the entry point to identify these beneficiaries. To check the eligibility for emergency cash, people can send their CNIC numbers to 8171. For the ease of applicants, Emergency Cash application web-portal has also been developed to check eligibility. Those who are being asked to contact District Administration (through SMS) can register themselves at the web-portal without visiting the office.