MANILA/KARACHI: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a loan worth $500 million to Pakistan to help the country’s coronavirus health and economic response and “protect poor” citizens, it said in a statement issued Wednesday. The development — part of the COVID-19 Active Response and Expenditure Support (CARES) Programme — comes following a meeting of the ADB’s Board of Directors in Philippines’ capital, Manila. In its statement, the bank said the loan would help the Pakistani government “deliver social protection programs to the poor and vulnerable, expand health sector capabilities, and deliver a pro-poor fiscal stimulus to boost growth and create jobs as the country fights the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic”. In this regard, ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa said: “The COVID-19 pandemic hit Pakistan at a critical point in its ongoing economic recovery program. We are fully committed to supporting Pakistan through this difficult period. #ADBNEWS: COVID-19 hit Pakistan at a critical point in its ongoing economic recovery program. ADB’s loan will help deliver programs for the poor & vulnerable, strengthen the health sector, & deliver a pro-poor stimulus to boost growth & jobs. “This loan will help plug selected funding gaps as the government implements its countercyclical development plan, including strengthening the country’s social safety net and health sector capacity.” The regional development financial institution noted that the coronavirus pandemic was forecast to hamper Pakistan’s economic growth, revenue collection, and employment. The country’s response to the outbreak of the respiratory illness was hindered owing to a low ration of healthcare workers to population and a lack of hospital beds.