NDMA to increase testing labs from 14 to 50 in 20 days: Gen Afzal

ISLAMABAD, Mar 28 (APP):Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lieutenant General Muhammad Afzal Saturday said the authority along with National Institute of Health (NIH) were working collectively to increase the existing number of coronavirus testing labs in the country from 14 to 50 in the next 15-20 days.

Addressing a media briefing along with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr. Zafar Mirza and SAPM on National Security Division Moeed Yusuf, he said the National Institute of Health (NIH) had informed NDMA that there was a shortage of trained workforce in testing laboratories.

He added that in order to overcome this shortcoming, NDMA was going to recruit 100 lab technicians having expertise in molecular biology.

The chairman NDMA said the authority using its powers under an article of NDMA Act would float an advertisement in that regard. “We will offer 4-6 months contract to these lab technicians and if this experiment goes successful then it will help overcome laboratories gaps for testing patients,” he added.

He was briefing the media on initiatives made by the NDMA for procuring medical equipments, testing system logistics and donations received to contain coronavirus outbreak.

“In Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), we will finalize our plan to set up the facility as machines and relevant equipments are available to fulfill the task,” he said.

Lieutenant General Afzal added that NDMA was going to provide testing kits and machines to three healthcare institutions in Karachi including SIUT, JPNC and Indus Hospital to set up testing labs. As Indus Hospital would primarily operate its testing facility in JPNC so two laboratories would be established at JPNC, he added.

Elaborating the status of existing labs, he said there was one lab working in Muzzafarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), one out of order machine was fixed and sent back to Mirpur whereas two more testing machines were handed over to AJK.

He added that one testing lab would be established in Rawalakot and one more testing machine would be provided to Muzzafarbad for reinforcement.
The chairman NDMA informed that one more testing lab would be set up in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), whose location would be between Abbottabad and Mansehra. It would be established in collaboration with the KP government, he added.

In Dera Ismail Khan (D.I. Khan), evaluation for setting up the lab was underway so that a coordinated network of testing labs in Peshawar, Abbottabad, Mansehra, D.I. Khan, Karak or Banu could be established in KP, he mentioned.

In Punjab, he said the testing lab at Rawalpindi Medical University (RMU) was in making up process and would be made functional in two to three days.

Meanwhile, he said NDMA was carrying out a feasibility study to establish testing labs in Gujranwala and Gujrat and areas having no lab facility within next 15-20 days.

The number of testing labs would be beefed up from existing 14 to 24 after installing new equipment received from China. “We will persistently increase the number of labs from 35 to 40 and ultimately to 50 in the next 15-20 days,” he added.

The chairman NDMA informed that two flights from China had arrived so far with medical equipments and a team of eight medical experts.

“One cargo plane with a short load of 600 testing kits landed in Karachi with each testing kit having the capacity to take 50 samples. The other flight landed in Islamabad that brought the team of medical experts,” he informed.

General Afzal added that another flight had departed to Wuhan that would land back in Pakistan at 04:30am to bring another tranche of medical and relief goods. “This shipment is very important as it carries 15 ventilators and protection equipment that will be delivered to doctors, nurses and paramedics fighting in the front line against the pandemic,” he added.

The NDMA, with the help of ministry of health, had acquired a huge cache of medical goods and equipments to facilitate doctors, nurses and paramedics in Gilgit Baltistan (GB), AJK and ICT dealing with the pandemic.

“Along with this, a package of 1,200 personal protective kits for doctors and paramedics would also be provided to AJK. GB’s special package sent from China is also ready, which is comprised of five ventilators and medical equipment enough to cater its needs for the next 3-4 weeks,” he noted.
The NDMA, he said had given an order of around 679 ventilators to different Chinese companies, out of which 400 would reach Pakistan within 3-4 months.

Moreover, around 150 ventilators, donated by different countries would reach Pakistan in next week, he added.

The chairman NDMA informed that almost 45 ton consignment would reach Pakistan on Tuesday from China containing ventilators and walk through gates which would be installed at airports, adding, “It is important as if we are to open our airports after April 4 then these items would help make our arrangements in place to manage the inflow of international passengers.”