–Dr Attaur Rahman says Pakistan is working closely with China to enhance its response against the coronavirus pandemic
LAHORE: As coronavirus cases continue to increase in Pakistan, scientists are looking into the genome sequence of SARS-CoV-2 to understand how it affects the local population in order to help the health authorities devise an effective treatment strategy.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Prime Minister’s Task Force on Science and Technology Chairman Dr Attaur Rahman said that due to genetic differences between populations across the world, it is important to understand how the virus has mutated in Pakistan before a comprehensive treatment strategy can be devised.
“Scientists at the Jamilur Rahman Centre for Genome Research in Karachi are looking into the virus strain that is infecting the local population and we should have the results within 10 days,” he said.
Dr Rahman said that clinical trials of some drugs will also be started soon to test their efficiency in treating COVID-19 patients in the country. “Chloroquine is said to be effective against the virus but we need clinical data to determine its effectiveness in Pakistan,” he added.
Talking about the other steps being taken by the authorities to combat the pandemic, he said that in a bid to meet the emergency need for medical equipment, developers were asked to submit prototypes for indigenously designed ventilators. “The Pakistan Engineering Council is currently evaluating those prototypes and whichever prototype is approved by all relevant departments will be put into mass production,” he added.
When asked about the country’s coronavirus testing capacity, he said that currently, several thousand suspected cases can be tested each day, but Pakistan is seeking China’s help to scale up its testing capacity. “They are facilitating us with testing kits and medical equipment, as well as sharing their experience with us, to help defeat this pandemic,” he added.
Responding to a question about Pakistan’s research infrastructure, Dr Rahman, who is the former chairman of the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and the incumbent vice chairman of Prime Minister’s Task Force on Technology Driven Knowledge Economy, said that government is working in close coordination with the international community to improve the country’s research infrastructure.
“The government has allocated Rs130 billion for a number of initiatives, including the establishment of two state-of-the-art applied sciences universities and a science and technology park, which will help in bridging the gap between research and industry,” he added.