ISLAMABAD                   -                  As the local transmission of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the country surged above 50 percent, the government on Monday decided to increase the testing capacity to contain the spread, said the top health official.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on National Health Services (NHS) Dr Zafar Mirza in an online media briefing said that the local transmission of the COVID-19 in the country has reached 52 percent and the government has moved towards adopting ‘proactive’ testing to contain the contagion. “We are increasing number of tests to cope with local transmission.”

The pilot testing of this new approach will be done in the federal and provincial capitals. Dr. Zafar Mirza said the overall testing strength in the country with the available facilities and equipment is around 600,000 tests, however it will reach one million in the upcoming days. The top health official also said that 27 labs across the country have been established for the COVID-19 tests and the number will be increased to 34 in future.

Zafar Mirza also said the government would soon start local production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) kits and N95 masks to effectively combat coronavirus (COVID-19).

Mirza said with achieving the capability of producing these important items at local level, the country would be able to manage its demand and supply in wake of prevailing high risk corona situation.   He said there was a plan to locally produce over 100,000 N95 masks on daily basis. He, however, said the N95 mask was relevant to only frontline health teams including doctors and paramedical staff and it should not be used by citizens.

Meanwhile Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) stressed that protection of health professionals needs to be a top priority. A statement released by PMA said that it has repeatedly communicated that our doctors fighting against coronavirus are front line soldiers. They must be protected all over Pakistan on a priority basis because they and their families are at risk.

The stamen further said that many doctors have been tested positive for coronavirus, one recent example is of ENT Professor Dr. Muhammad Javed of Hayatabad Medical Complex Peshawar, who has tested positive for coronavirus and has been shifted to the ICU. He is on ventilator and fighting for his life.

The statement said that two doctors have died so far while fighting on the front lines, Dr. Usama Riaz, and Dr. Abdul Qadir Soomro. Unfortunately, no compensation has been announced yet for the aggrieved families of the deceased doctors.

The PMA demanded that the federal government and the concerned provincial governments announce not only a compensation amount for the families, but also be a regular monthly support amount for the education, health and utilities for the families of the deceased doctors urgently.

To reduce further transmission among health professionals, the National Institute of Health (NIH) on Monday arranged training sessions for quarantine centers staff for their capacity building on dealing with coronavirus A statement issued by NIH said that following government policy of testing passengers coming from abroad to Pakistan, NIH arranged training sessions for the staff working in different hotels of Islamabad which are presently used as Quarantine Centers for the passengers coming by air from different countries.

It said that the purpose of training at all the quarantine hotels was to sensitize the staff.  It was observed that there is an immediate need for capacity building and awareness among the staff who are attending to the arriving passengers in hotels.