Shift from lockdown to trace, test, quarantine

-Asad Umar says change in combating Coronavirus strategy needed to return to
-Dr. Zafar says dependence on imported equipment being decreased by local
-Country-wide virus cases rise to 5,500 with 1,095 recoveries

By Ajmal Khan Yousafzai

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said on Monday that the federal government needed to transition from a strategy of total lockdown to a strategy of testing, tracing and quarantining (TTQ) to return to normalcy.
He made these remarks during a press briefing with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza.
“If we shut everything down to stop coronavirus, we will never be able to get back on our feet. This is exactly why we need a strategy of testing, tracing and quarantining,” reasoned Umar, adding that countries that employed a similar strategy were now on the verge of reopening their economies.
Elaborating on what he meant by testing, tracing and quarantining, the minister explained that the government would first aim to conduct mass testing followed by constituting a system of extensive contact tracing, whereby, infected patients and all those who came in contact with them are quarantined. Umar argued that by following this strategy, the government will be able to reopen essential sectors of the economy, which in turn will make the transition to complete normalcy smoother.
The federal minister also announced that another session of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) will take place on Tuesday.
“Decisions on our future course of action will be taken after the next NCC session,” Umar stated, adding that the government’s strategy from day one has been to bring all the provinces and stakeholders on board before taking decisions.
Umar also lauded the nation for “behaving responsibly”, saying that Pakistan’s situation, in terms of number of confirmed cases, is better than most developed countries.
He also urged the country’s business community to be responsible and take precautions to protect their workers from Covid-19. He added that the government may introduce legislation making it compulsory for businesses to protect their employees from the disease.
Testing capacity to be increased: SAPM Mirza
Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza, meanwhile, agreed with Asad Umar that testing, tracing and quarantining was an extremely effective way of not just defeating Covid-19 but also for returning to normalcy.
“Look, we have only been testing symptomatic people so far. We are now expanding that circle so that we can start contact tracing effectively,” Zafar said. Zafar also announced that the government currently had the capacity to conduct 600,000 tests, an amount which is expected to cross 1 million by mid-April. He added that these testing kits would allow the government to meet its daily testing target of carrying out 20,000 to 25,000 tests by end of April.
“As we speak, we have 27 laboratories for testing and we will soon be constructing 7 more labs,” Zafar said. SAPM Mirza also announced that Pakistan will, in the coming weeks, be able to produce N-95 masks locally and would not have to import them. He concluded by saying that that the country was working on producing personal protective equipment required by medics exposed to the coronavirus in the country. Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar has announced that the government is willing to take unified decisions for eliminating coronavirus pandemic and the future strategy will be unveiled tomorrow (Tuesday), media reported on Monday.
Asad Umar made the statement while addressing a press conference alongside Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza in Islamabad today.
The planning minister announced that the federal government will organise another meeting of the national command centre on Tuesday morning which would be participated by chief ministers. “The recommendations tabled in today’s session will be reviewed in the upcoming meeting. The federal government will hold one more meeting on Tuesday evening to hold consultations over the recommendations accepted in the previous meeting. The series of sessions are being conducted to provide a complete opportunity of all sides to present their opinion to contain the pandemic.”
“The decisions to fight COVID-19 will be taken in view of the current national and economic situations. We are willing to take unified decisions and the future strategy will be unveiled after the session of the national command centre. We also wanted to run businesses besides fighting coronavirus.”
He said that it will be finalised tomorrow for what would be the post-April 15 strategies to be implemented in the country. The forthcoming session will be participated by Prime Minister Imran Khan while the provinces were also willing to finalise a solid strategy against coronavirus after holding consultations, added the minister. Umar said that the nation has exhibited responsible behaviour that brought positive results. The minister urged traders and businesspersons to take care of their workers’ health. “At this time, the government is making all-out efforts to maximise capacity of COVID-19 testing to 20-25,000 in a day by the end of April.
Asad Umar paid tribute to the doctors and health workers fighting on front line against COVID-19 pandemic. He also praised efforts of social workers and district administrations from all parts of the country. Confirmed coronavirus cases reached 5,374 in the country as 93 people have died from the infection till to date, according to the national dashboard.
According to the available statistics, 336 cases have been reported in the country during the last 24 hours.
Punjab has the highest number of infections up to 2,594, 1,411 in Sindh, 744 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 230 in Balochistan, 224 in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB), 131 in Islamabad and 40 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The country has conducted 61,801 COVID-19 tests including, whereas, the death toll jumped to 93. At least 1,095 patients have recovered from the disease while 44 still in critical condition. The worldwide death toll from the novel coronavirus pandemic rose to 112,510.
More than 1,824,950 declared cases have been registered in over 190 countries and territories since the epidemic first emerged in China in December. Of these cases, at least 375,500 are now considered recovered.