Healthcare professionals are serving on the frontlines in the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. At great personal risk, they continue to show up at work to save lives. It is unfortunate that the situation in Quetta had to deteriorate to such an extent before NDMA moved to provide personal protective equipment (PPEs) to doctors and nurses. Regardless, the statements made by Prime Minister Imran Khan stressing on the need to provide PPEs for healthcare personnel are encouraging. To achieve this, where the government is rightly ensuring procurement from China and other partners, it must also fully utilise Pakistan’s private sector to meet rising demand.

The textile industry in the country is well positioned to make up for the shortfall. PPEs include masks, gloves, protective suits, goggles, respiratory equipment and so on. Much of this can be easily produced by local companies on a war footing.

Another key aspect is that of quality. Defective equipment can prove to be even more dangerous than no equipment at all in some cases. People operating under the false assurance of protection are likely to be less careful believing that they are safe. Therefore, the government must ensure that all PPEs distributed in hospitals comply with established standards.

Most PPEs have a certain lifespan after which they become ineffective. This means that hospitals too will need to use them responsibly ensuring neither waste nor overuse takes place. For the government, it means securing a regular supply line to avoid shortages. As cases rise, so will the demand for PPEs. To mitigate the situation, the government will need to both mobilise the local sector as well as continue exploration of international options available for procurement. This is also an opportunity to develop SOPs for the future to deal with the weaknesses in Pakistan’s disaster management mechanism that have been exposed by the pandemic. It is hoped that the people too will behave responsibly to ease the tremendous pressure on authorities dealing with an unprecedented challenge.