Govt sets target of 20,000 tests daily

-Mirza says currently 4,365 virus tests are being conducted on daily basis
-Public education programme decided between Ulema and Prime Minister
-Mosques to remain open with precautionary measures

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said on Monday mosques in the country will not be shut but the standard operating procedures (SOPs) regarding congregational prayers will be enforced in letter and spirit to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Speaking at a daily coronavirus briefing, he said a group of ulema today held a meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan, during which an awareness campaign aimed to educate people about precautionary measures while observing religious rituals came under discussion.
Zafar Mirza said the ulema endorsed the government’s strategy to prevent the spread of virus in mosques.
He maintained the government has learnt many lessons from the ongoing crisis, adding in future, special attention will be paid to the healthcare sector to deal with any outbreak in an effective manner. The special assistant said 10,4302 tests have been conducted across the country to date, including 4,365 tests done over the past 24 hours. He added the government’s target is to conduct 20,000 tests in a day.
He said 65 per cent of the total Covid-19 cases are locally transmitted.
Parliamentary Secretary for Health Dr. Nausheen Hamid on Monday said the government was striving hard to increase the testing capacity of suspected cases of coronavirus to 20,000 per day from the end of April as currently 34 testing laboratories were fully functional in the country.
Talking to PTV news channel, Dr Nausheen Hamid said federal government was providing assistance to all provinces on equal basis and the government was trying to ensure availability of protective and testing kits throughout the country without any interruption.
Ministry of Health in collaboration with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) is devising policy to ensure establishment of diagnostic labs at division level, she added.
At present there is no shortage of essential tools to cope with the COVID-19 in the country, she said adding, more than one hundred thousand testing kits are now available which would be increased in coming days. She explained that few weeks back, Pakistan had no capacity to deal with the challenge of this virus but within a very short span of time we have improve our capacity and capabilities to fight against it. The shortage of protecting gears for paramedical staff weas also addressed, she mentioned.
To fulfill the need of ventilators government of Pakistan also discussed with local manufacturing Industries to manufacture its local ventilators and they would start manufacturing of ventilators indigenously at our own after its trail phases. Within weeks the local manufactured ventilators would be functional, she added. The government was also trying to ensure availability of protective and testing kits throughout the country and NDMA is now directly sending these protective gears to all hospitals of provinces, she said.
People should follow guideline regarding social distancing, stay home and stay strong. Pakistan would be among the first few countries to get rid of this pandemic, she added. Nausheen Hamid said Prime Minister Imran Khan is personally visiting provinces and monitoring the situation and the way he is visiting different cities to view isolation and quarantine centers is appreciable. Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday presided over a high-level meeting to review the government’s measures to tackle the coronavirus crisis, according to the Prime Minister’s Office.
During the meeting, Special Assistant to PM on Health Dr Zafar Mirza gave a detailed briefing on the current Covid-19 situation in the country, while Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar briefed on various recommendations to make the National Command and Operation Centre’s strategy to cope with the deadly infection more effective. The prime minister was informed that more than 8,000 Covid-19 tests are being conducted in the country in a day, but the testing capacity will be enhanced to 20,000 tests per day by the end of this month. He was further informed that special heed is being paid to strengthen the healthcare system so that any health crisis be dealt with effectively in future. Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister Imran Khan said the government is going all-out to strike a balance between preventing the spread of the coronavirus and keeping the wheel of economy moving.
He maintained the government is alive to the hardships faced by the business community and making efforts to resolve their issues in cooperation with the provincial governments. He underscored most effective strategy against the coronavirus is to ensure social distancing.
The prime minister emphasised the need for peddling awareness about social distancing among public in order to seek their cooperation in this regard. In free countries, he added, the people are encouraged to cooperate with the government instead of use of force in matters of national importance.
He expressed satisfaction over a strategy agreed upon with Ulema and Mashaikh of the country regarding Covid-19 precautions during the holy month of Ramazan.