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The federal health secretary on Friday refused to give a briefing to a Senate committee about alleged irregularities in Covid-19 related funds in front of the media, contending that such an open briefing might result in suspension of the supply of vaccines by foreign governments and institutions.

The Senate Standing Committee on Health met in the Parliament House to take stock of health programmes and utilization of Covid-19 funds. Senator Muhammad Hamayun chaired the meeting.

The participants demanded that the health secretary brief them on the alleged irregularities in the use of Covid-19 related funds but the secretary requested the committee to hold an in-camera session to discuss the issue.

Taking exception to the request, PPP Senator Bahramand Khan Tangi said the coronavirus pandemic is a public issue. “What is the need to discuss it in-camera? Will the international donors of vaccines stop supplying jabs if we discuss the issue in public?” he asked.

The secretary, replying in the affirmative, said the provision of vaccines might be suspended. Later, the committee accepted the secretary’s request and decided to hold an in-camera session on the issue.

Briefing the members on the Sehat Sahulat Programme, the health secretary said the programme has been launched in two provinces – Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) where the ruling PTI also has provincial governments while it is not available in Sindh and Balochistan.

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“The [PPP led] Sindh government has, however, expressed the desire to have the benefits of this programme,” he said. “However, all health programmes are needed to be launched by respective provincial governments.”

The secretary informed the meeting that in view of the demand of the people of Tharparkar, the federal government is funding the programme in this far-flung district of Sindh.

Sehat Sahulat Programme Director Muhammad Arshad said the federal government has allocated Rs5,600 million under the programme for the areas administered by the federation.

The PTI government has started the “Sehat Sahulat Programme” whose vision is to work towards social welfare reforms, guaranteeing that the lower class within the country gets access to basic medical care without financial risks.

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