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Tuesday Mar 17 2020

Pakistan seeking World Bank's help in fight against coronavirus

Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is seeking financial assistance from the World Bank to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), a senior official told the The News on Monday.

The World Bank has already established $12 billion fund on March 13 to provide financial assistance to countries affected by coronavirus.

Since Pakistan is a cash strapped country and is facing huge deficit, the financial managers of the country have initiated talks with World Bank. When contacted, Spokesman of Finance Ministry Special Secretary Omar Hameed confirmed that the government was in talks with the bank but the amount was yet to be finalised.

In view of the crippling impact of the pandemic, according to senior officials of the health ministry, containment was the only option.

"Pakistan must devote all its resources and efforts in containing the virus outside the borders and isolate cases within its territory when discovered," said the official. He added that containment was the first step in responding to any outbreak despite their inordinate social and economic cost, and it buys the country precious time to prepare people for the onslaught, raise awareness and change behavior, buys time for the weather to warm up to reduce the spread and time for a vaccine to arrive.

Read also: Coronavirus outbreak: Pakistan obtains key relief from IMF

"Yet even if Pakistan could not copy China, its experience holds three important lessons — to talk to the public, to slow the transmission of disease and to prepare health systems for spike in demand."

According to the official, the World Bank will help developing countries strengthen health systems, including better access to health services to safeguard people from the epidemic, strengthen disease surveillance, bolster public health interventions, and work with the private sector to reduce the impact on economies.

The financial package, with financing drawn from across IDA, IBRD and IFC, will be globally coordinated to support country-based responses.

The COVID-19 support package will make initial crisis resources available up to $12 billion in financing — $8 billion of which is new — on a fast track basis.

The amount comprises up to $2.7 billion new financing from IBRD; $1.3 billion from IDA, complemented by reprioritization of $2 billion of the bank’s existing portfolio; and $6 billion from IFC, including $2 billion from existing trade facilities.

It will also include policy advice and technical assistance drawing on global expertise and country-level knowledge. Countries that face different levels of risk and vulnerability to COVID-19 require different levels of support.

The World Bank will prioritise the poorest countries and those at high risk with low capacity. As the spread of COVID-19 and its impact continues to evolve, the World Bank Group will adapt its approach and resources as needed.

Originally published in The News