ISLAMABAD                 -               The outbreak of COVID-19 has forced governments, scientists and medical professionals the world over, to contemplate how to counter this unanticipated and deadly challenge facing the world, said Minister for Science and Technology on Thursday. 

He said this in his visit to National University of Science and Technology (NUST).

Leading research-intensive institutions and centres across the globe are doing their best to grapple with the crisis.In Pakistan, National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST) has been going the extra mile to combat this pandemic through indigenously developed technologies as well as intellectual input and support to the government.

Federal Minister for Science and Technology Chaudhry Fawad Hussain paid a visit to the university on Thursday. Upon arrival, Lt Gen Naweed Zaman, HI (M), (Retd), Rector NUST, along with the principal investigators, apprised the minister about specifications and applications of projects displayed at the occasion. 

These projects included tele-operated decontamination robot, aerial spraying drone, robust and cost-effective PCR-based testing kits for the detection of Coronavirus, bilingual (Urdu and English) COVID-19 self-screening app, the world’s first Urdu app for Android, named COVID CHECK PAKISTAN (app is available at http://ncra.org.pk/covid/), high-quality sanitisers for microbial control, produced as per the revised guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA, and ventilator systems for short-term stabilisation (ranging from few hours to 1 day) of COVID-19 patients, as per the design specifications specially issued for combatting COVID-19 by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulator Agency (MHRA), UK.

Later, the minister witnessed a demonstration of the decontamination systems developed by scientists for disinfecting open and closed spaces. These technologies will be used to disinfect high risk and critically important locations, such as hospitals, indoor and outdoor quarantine camps, airports, commercial spaces, etc., to lower the risk of coronavirus spread. 

Talking to the media, the minister spoke high of NUST for playing its role, as a leading research-led university of the country, in helping the government fight this pandemic. He commended NUST for coming up with highly innovative and effective products at a fast pace to purge the country from the pandemic that has been wreaking havoc globally. 

He said that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) has constituted an expert committee both for testing kits and ventilators, which will be meeting soon, adding that time-to-market for medical devices, is not a short process, and considering the inherently lengthy process, these particular kits are being fast-tracked so that the immediate requirement of the country can be met as early as possible, and dependence on imported kits can be reduced. 

The minister also praised the scientists for having sequenced the complete genome of SARS-CoV-2, which would help develop more accurate diagnostics for this virus and will also impact vaccine development studies.