Thursday Mar 26, 2020
ISLAMABAD: The United States has designated Pakistan as "a priority country" and announced it will send $1 million as emergency aid to help the government deal with the current COVID-19 pandemic, Ambassador Paul Jones said in a video message on Thursday.
"The United States stands with Pakistan in its fight against coronavirus," Jones said. "We've made Pakistan a priority country for emergency coronavirus assistance.
"We redirected $1 million in existing funding and provided $1 million in new funding for lab and emergency supplies and to enable communities to identify potential coronavirus outbreaks," he added.
The aid would help set up a smartphone application to "increase, expedite, and centralise case investigation and response".
"At the request of the Pakistani government, we quickly adapted a procurement system for commodities essential to coronavirus response," the ambassador explained. The USAID, in this regard, has created a database for the country's airport officials to to identify potential coronavirus-infected passengers based on symptoms and travel history, he added.
According to the ambassador, 100 Pakistani students who recently graduated from the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) epidemiology lab training programme were working on coronavirus cases in Gilgit-Baltistan and Punjab.
"In partnership with the Sindh government, the United States provided $18 million to establish the Jacobabad Institute of Medical Sciences, which has an intensive care unit. We are also providing 13 fully equipped ambulances to health authorities in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa," Jones noted.
He asked his fellow citizens to sign up for a dedicated programme on the US Embassy's website.
"For Americans in Pakistan, I urge you to sign up for our Smart Traveler Enrollment Program know as STEP. Through STEP, you'll receive security and health alerts from our Embassy so you can stay up-to-date in this rapidly changing situation. It's easy to sign up — just go to step.state.gov," he said.
The ambassador also underlined that the embassy staff — who stayed back in Pakistan after some of their colleagues temporarily relocated — were "following a strict regimen of frequent handwashing, no-touch greetings, and keeping two metres' distance".
"Our public services are limited to emergency visa and American citizen cases, through appointments made on our website," he underlined.