Coronavirus pandemic might pull Pakistan’s economy into recession

The confirmed COVID-19 cases of Pakistan have risen to more than 5,000 with 86 deaths, and nearly half of the infected cases are from Punjab province alone. The Ministry of National Health Services also said that 254 new infections were reported in the country, taking the total number to 5,038 on Saturday.

The nation-wide breakdown of the cases showed that Punjab has more than 2,400 cases, Sindh more than 1,300, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) about 700, Balochistan 200 and Gilgit-Baltistan more than 200, Islamabad 100 and Pakistan occupied Kashmir about 30.

Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives told the media that exports had already dropped by 50% due to COVID-19 and the government has lost one-third of its revenue.

The minister also announced that the Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme (EECP) would allow the government to give 144 billion Pakistani Rupees to 12 million families. This was the biggest relief package in the history of Pakistan.

He added that Prime Minister Imran Khan would host a meeting of the National Co­ordination Committee on Coronavirus next Monday on whether to extend the ease restrictions or lockdown after April 15.

The World Bank said the COVID-19 crisis has started to take a heavy toll on the country’s economy. According to a report based on country-level data till April 7, Pakistan, along with the Maldives and Afghanistan, is expected to fall into recession and Pakistan’s economy is expected to shrink by up to 2.2%.

On Sunday, the US overtook Italy as the country having the highest number of deaths due to coronavirus pandemic with the fatalities crossing above 20,000.

Globally, the coronavirus that originated in China in December of last year has killed more than 108,000 people and infected more than 1.7 million people. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the US is also the country that has the highest number of infections at 529,887.