–Asad Umar says daily testing capacity to reach 25,000 by month’s end
–Dr Mirza says mass COVID-19 curve can be flattened through mass testing
–Punjab accounts for half of Pakistan’s cases; Balochistan extends lockdown for another two weeks
ISLAMABAD: As coronavirus cases crossed 4,000 on Tuesday, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said that Pakistan will be able to conduct 25,000 tests per day by the end of April.
Punjab’s cases tally reached 2,004 after another 86 cases emerged. Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department Spokesperson Qaiser Asif explained that 726 patients were pilgrims being kept at quarantine centres, 539 were associated with Raiwind and the Tableeghi Markaz, 49 cases had been detected in prisoners, while the remaining 690 had been detected in citizens across the province.
Sindh reported 54 additional cases, taking the provincial tally to 986. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that 16 more people had recovered over the past 24 hours, while one more death was recorded.
Balochistan has recorded 206 cases while the tally in KP has reached 500. The federal capital reported one new case while Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) reported two cases. With the confirmation of new cases, Islamabad and AJK’s respective tallies increased to 83 and 18.
About 56 people have died and 429 have recovered so far across the country.
Addressing a conference with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza in Islamabad, Asad Umar said that last month, the country was struggling to conduct 1,000 tests daily but the capacity was being increased.
He said that the federal government would directly provide protective gear to approximately 400 hospitals across Pakistan.
“Healthcare is a devolved subject in Pakistan and thus it is the responsibility of the provinces to provide protective to frontline medics in this time of crisis,” he said, adding that since it was a time of emergency, the government’s decision to deal with the hospitals directly while circumventing provincial authority was prudent and timely to ensure that there are no more delays in the distribution of medical equipment.
“We have identified approximately 400 hospitals across the country for this purpose. But we will prioritise 153 hospitals that have five or more ventilators before moving on to others,” he added.
The minister also revealed that the federal government has sent 39,500 medical kits to the provinces.
He also dispelled the notion of Pakistanis having immunity from COVID-19 and said that so far more than 50 people had died while more than 20 had been shifted on ventilators. “I know that our nation is self-confident but please take care of yourselves,” he added.
Dr Mirza revealed that in Pakistan, 163 tests are being conducted per one million people. In comparison, 50 tests per one million are being carried out in India and 964 per million in Iran.
While acknowledging that the figure of 163 tests per million is “not really” enough, he said that “all efforts are being put into increasing our testing capacity”. The curve of coronavirus cases can be flattened in Pakistan through mass testing, he added.
He further said that 577 cases were detected in Pakistan in the past 24 hours, adding that the jump in numbers was caused because new data had been fed into the system.
BALOCHISTAN EXTENDS LOCKDOWN:
Meanwhile, the Balochistan government extended the ongoing lockdown in the province till April 21.
Earlier in the day, Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal confirmed the recovery of 31 patients in the province.
Meanwhile, the Japanese government decided to grant $250,000 through the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to Pakistan to aid the country in its battle against COVID-19.
Japanese assistance to Pakistan during the pandemic now totals $2.45 million.
Ambassador of Japan in Pakistan Matsuda Kuninori also commended the tremendous efforts of the Pakistani government and its people in the country’s fight to curb the spread of the virus.