It took a little longer than expected but they are finally here. COVID-19 diagnostic testing kits locally developed by scientists at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) have been approved by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).

This is a significant step in our fight against the virus. Pakistan’s efforts towards combating the virus were previously quite costly, with the government allocating Rs70 billion in the budget for its eradication. The problem arose from the fact that many basic items, required for countering the spread, are not produced on a large scale and thus needed to be imported, with a heavy cost to the exchequer. This created a dent on the balance of payments, and was inefficient as well, since high prices of coronavirus testing equipment deterred people from testing, even if they were experiencing symptoms.

This new development, it is hoped, will lower the cost of testing and enable many more people to get tested. Since monitoring is one of the most effective ways of containing the virus, as learnt by the experiences of countries who have managed to eradicate the virus, easily available and affordable testing can go a long way in our battle against this pandemic. Having said that, with these domestic testing kits, quality control must be prioritised above all else.

Not only is this a positive development in containing the virus, but it is also a testament to the talent and grit that is found in our academics and students. It shows us what an asset to the country our intellectuals and academics can prove to be if they are properly supported and facilitated in their work. It is hoped this development will awaken the government to the need to invest in more research and academia.