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Pakistan records 30pc increase in testing capacity

By Ikram Junaidi 2020-05-17
ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has stated that over 14,000 tests for coronavirus were held across the country in a single day, taking the tally of tests conducted so far to around 360,000.

The data was shared during a meeting of the NCOC, headed by Minister for Planning Development Reforms and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, on Saturday.

Expressing satisfaction over Pakistan`s increasing testing capacity, the federal minister said that from two laboratories in mid-March to 70 labs across the country till date, the testing capacity witnessed over 30 times increase during the last two months.

`The testing capacity of the country has favourably increased and over 14,000 tests have been carried out in the country which is encouraging and should be increased further,` he observed.

Initially, Pakistan was conducting a couple of thousand tests a day by the mid of March. The capacity was later doubled and itremained so for many days.

It was informed that new labs were being established to increase the number of daily tests.

While the NCOC data released on Saturday showed that 14,878 tests were conducted in 24 hours, the capacity is likely to be enhanced further as Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Services Dr Zafar Mirza had recently claimed that the number of daily tests would be increased to 25,000 by May 31.

According to international data, the US has so far conducted the highest number of tests i.e. 11.11 million tests, showing an average of 33,616 tests per million population. Spain, the second worst-hit country, has conducted over three million tests, indicating 64,977 tests per million population. The UK conducted 2.4m tests, which shows 36,697 tests per million population.

However, considering its population, the United Arab Emirates attained the highest average of tests. The UAE conducted 158,068 tests per million population.

India, with 2.1m tests conducted so far, attained the average of only 1,549 tests per million population, while Pakistan has surpassed the ratio by conducting 1,631 tests per million population.

According to the NCOC statement, Mr Umar said that Pakistan has been quick in enhancing itscapacity and capability in every policy strand whether health management system, emergency health care equipment, raising structure like National Coordination Committee/NCOC, channelling resources and tapping efficient human resource and most importantly formulating standard operating procedures (SOPs) and their implementation.

`Where there is a will there is a way. The people of Pakistan can`t be left on the mercy of the pandemic. We have and will move every single resource available to mitigate the challenges of common people. We will take all steps necessary for public safety and well-being of people of Pakistan,` the minister said.

He denied that there was any shortage of medical equipment in the country and highlighted that it was necessary to focus on managing the trained human resource for handling the pandemic.

Mr Umar said the implementation of SOPs and social distancing was only possible through public education and awareness.

The NCOC was of the opinion that market associations/ traders` organisations must ensure compliance with SOPs issued by the Ministry of National Health Services.

In case of non-compliance, the particular market as a whole be closed for failing to ensure collective responsibility, it was suggested at the meeting.

Punjab Minis ter for Industries Mian Aslam Iqbal said around 336 warning notices had already been issued to different markets and industries over the violation of SOPs, whereas it was decided that such markets and industries would be sealed on repeated violation.

Minister for Interior Brig (R) Ejaz Ahmed Shah said the district administration should engage traders` associations andlocal stakeholders to ensure implementation of the SOPs.

The NCOC mentioned that the Ehsaas Emergency Cash relief was going to recommence on Monday where the SOPs devised for public safety should be ensured to contain the pandemic.

Around Rs104 billion was distributed among eight million beneficiaries through Ehsaas Emergency Cash Relief, whereas Rs50 billion assistance package was prepared to aid 3.5 million small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Moreover, Rs50 billion worth agricultural relief pack-age was launched for farmers, while Rs50 billion was also allocated for the health sector.

Later while presiding over another meeting that considered the budget for the next financial year, the Minister for Planning and Development said despite the Covid-19 challenges, funds would be allocated for different projects in Karachi.

It was decided to upgrade the system of the Planning Commission to improve the monitoring of development projects. Sindh Governor Imran Ismail also participated in the meeting through a video link.Minister for Information and Broadcasting Senator Shibli Faraz during a media briefing said the government was pursuing a comprehensive roadmap to handle the challenge of coronavirus pandemic.

He said despite the economic constraints, the government had announced a huge stimulus package of Rs1.2 trillion to provide a cushion and support to every segment of the society affected by the contagion.

Senator Faraz said allthefederating units had been taken along to cope with the situation arising out of the pandemic.