LAHORE                    -                    Punjab Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid on Tuesday said that as many as 1,380 patients have returned to their homes after recoveries from COVID-19 and Punjab has conducted over 75,000 tests whereas the number of total patients has reached 5730.

Addressing a press conference at the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department, the Minister said overall 95 people have lost their lives and 22 patients are currently in critical condition. Secretary Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department Captain (Retd) Usman Younis and Secretary Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Barrister Nabeel Awan flanked the Minister during the Press Conference. The Minister said that the cities most affected by the Pandemic include Lahore, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Gujrat as well as northern cities along GT Road. In South Punjab, the majority of Corona patients are from the Tablighi Jamat and Zayeren (Pilgrims) coming from Iran.

The Minister said: “We have made functional seven BSL-3 Labs in Punjab functional with more additions coming in Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Rahim Yar Khan. We have enhanced our testing capacity and now we can conduct between 4 to 5 thousand tests per day. In order to assess the overall situation of COVID-19 prevalence, we will have to conduct more tests. Consultations are underway with different experts from LUMS, Harvard, MIT and other Academic organizations to control the spread of the virus and devise future strategies. According to directives of Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar Punjab is now starting smart testing. One test costs the government between Rs. 4 to 5 thousand as the government has to bear the cost of kits at private sector rates. All countries in the world are doing selective testing.

“The government will conduct tests in selected households in identified areas. These tests will also be conducted in media houses and Darul Aman as well. The government is providing free test facilities to all patients. On our request Chughtai Labs are providing first 100 tests at half price whereas Bahria hospital are providing tests at affordable price. We have also asked the private sector to reduce the prices of tests for general public. All health professionals giving treatment to COVID-19 patients have been given Personal Protective Equipment and the supplies have been ensured. Vice Chancellors, Principals, Medical Superintendants and CEOs have been extra amounts to procure them locally as well. A large number of doctors are busy providing treatment to the patients,” the Minister added.

Elaborating further, Dr Yasmin said: “All doctors working for COVID-19 patients will be given one month extra salary. If God forbid, a staff member loses his life in the line of duty, he will be declared a martyr and the Cabinet Committee has approved special amount of Rs. 4 million for staff between 2 to 16 grades and Rs. 8 million for staff over BPS 17. The good news is that the number of patients showing mild or no symptoms accounts for over 90% our total cases. Majority of deaths are between the age group of 50 to 70 years and even among those, around 90% deaths are among people with co-morbidities. As we have a large young population and they have better immunity as well, hence our patients are recovering fast. We have developed Field Hospitals and dedicated special facilities for patients. We are reviewing the situation on daily basis and some international flights will be allowed in Punjab soon.”

Responding to questions of journalists, the Minister said that in order to address the concerns of the Grand Health Alliance, a meeting was held under the chairmanship of Law Minister Raja Basharat on 18th April and attended by officers of the department. She said all staff working for Corona patients have been given PPE. All 27 doctors testing positive for Corona in Multan have recovered and returned. Disciplinary action will be taken against staff disrupting provision of treatment to patients in hospitals. The legitimate demands of doctors have been noted and addressed. She said in compliance with court orders, no proceedings were initiated against doctors over violations of five months ago even though no organizations retain staff terminated over serious violations.

Secretary PSH Captain (Retd) Usman Younis said that smart sampling would be initiated from among the Pakistanis returning from abroad including Iran, Tableeghi Jamaat and general population. “Areas will be identified for samples from data of people kept at Quarantine Centers. We will then decide which areas will be further picked for lockdown to stop the transmission. We are considering smart lockdowns instead of complete lockdown of the cities. The hot spots have already been identified for smart sampling. The areas and offices remaining busy under lockdown will be especially picked for smart sampling including media houses and hospitals and then the data will be analyzed for Contact Tracing.

Secretary Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education barrister Nabeel Awan said that the complete data of PPE given to staff has been openly shared with the public. “We are grateful to the doctors, paramedics, security and support staff for their immense services at this moment of trial. They are our frontline soldiers and I salute them for great service to their nation. Currently 1844 patients are under treatment in Govt Hospitals and only 87 patients are under treatment at private hospitals. As many as 427 patients are under treatment at the DHQ and THQ hospitals and 1333 patients are under treatment in Teaching Hospitals.

He added that the government has provided Rs. 5.174 billion to the Specialized Healthcare and Medical Education Department so far out of which Rs. 96 crore have been given to Teaching Hospitals which have spent so far Rs. 40 crore. He divulged that funds are being disbursed according to the number of patients and In the last 25 days, the Personal Protective Equipment worth Rs. 15 crore has been distributed among healthcare professionals.