More Covid 19 testing required

June 25, 2020

Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar had last month expressed the view that the capacity of 30,000 tests per day would be sufficient for Pakistan to control the spread of the deadly virus.“Currently, we are in a position to hold over 25,000 tests per day and with every passing day our capacity to conduct tests is increasing,” Mr Umar had stated, expressing the hope that they would be able to hold 30,000 tests per day by the start of June. He was of the view that 30,000 daily tests would
be a sizeable number to ascertain the pace of spread and formulate future strategy accordingly.However, it is also a fact that Pakistan is a large country with a huge population. We are the sixth most populous country with 25 per cent population is under absolute poverty. Therefore, human
interaction and proximity of living together are also very high,” the SAPM explained while highlighting the cause of the sudden rise in Covid-19 cases. He gave the example of Brazil and Mexico where, according to him, the conditions are the same as in Pakistan. On multiple days since mid-June, official figures for coronavirus-related deaths in the country have been
well over 100. According to press releases issued by the National Command and Operation Centre, 111 people lost their lives to Covid-19 on June 16 and 136 on June 17. Just last week, the Covid-19 official death toll in a single day was 153 the highest in 24 hours since the start of the outbreak in Pakistan at
the end of February. As these figures continue to climb, the daily total tests towards the end of June stand at an average of 28,500, a number far lower than the 100,000 daily testing milestone the government has calculated for July. It is evident that, much like the global trend in countries where Covid-19 cases have soared, Pakistan’s daily cases and deaths are growing. In fact, the current scenario was predicted by healthcare professionals who had warned of a rise in coronavirus cases if restrictions were lifted at the end of May. Although the authorities may argue that cases and deaths here are still lower than in many of the worst- hit countries such as the UK where over 1,000 coronavirus fatalities have been reported in a single day
at the peak of the infection the reality is that Pakistan is still over a month away from what authorities and think tanks have estimated to be the ‘peak phase’. As we approach that dreaded period, the authorities must focus their resources on two key areas: increased testing capacity and data-driven
decisions. Testing must be ramped up, and fast, in order to obtain a realistic picture of the spread of Covid-19. While 100,000 daily tests are not enough in a population of 200m, at the moment we are very
far from even that target. Increased testing and intelligent data gathering are the only tools the government has to enforce the smart lockdowns it views as its mitigation strategy. These figures are the roadmap; in the absence of accurate data, any strategy will be flawed. As these figures continue to climb, the daily total tests towards the end of June stand at an average of 28,500, a number far lower than the 100,000 daily testing milestone the government has calculated for July.

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