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How Many is Pakistan Testing for COVID-19?

by Newsweek Pakistan
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Data issued by provincial and federal governments reveals only 32,360 tests have been administered thus far nationwide

The World Health Organization has repeatedly stated that social distancing, coupled with aggressive testing, is the only surefire way to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus that is sweeping the globe.

Pakistan, much like large parts of the world, has implemented strict restrictions on movement to encourage social distancing. However, its testing capacity appears to be lagging, with the latest data showing that nationwide, Pakistan has only conducted 32,360 tests in a nation of 220 million. Even this figure is the result of collating Punjab’s data with the official data released by the National Institute of Health, which only started on Friday to measure tests conducted in both private and public labs in the province.

Because of this data deficiency, observers had been raising the most questions about Punjab’s claimed testing and the results posted on the NIH’s daily situation report about the COVID-19 outbreak. On Friday, provincial authorities sought to put the matter to rest by revealing the exact break-up of the tests administered thus far, even as the NIH finally started to measure the exact number of tests being administered.

Punjab

According to Dr. Yasmin Rashid, the health minister of Punjab province, the total COVID-19 tests conducted in Punjab till April 3 (Friday) was 17,069. This is the highest number of tests administered in the country thus far and yet is still far below the tests required in a province of 110 million people. According to the break-up provided by Rashid, the government or its affiliated labs have conducted the bulk of the tests.

The details state that 4,039 tests have been administered by the Punjab Health Department’s Lab; 500 by the Nishtar Hospital Multan; 2,238 by the Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital (which Rashid says is providing free testing for the government); 2,980 by the NIH Lab in Islamabad; and 7,312 by the private sector. Overall, Punjab has conducted 17,069 tests and found 920 people infected with COVID-19—16,149 have tested negative for the disease.

Sindh

In Sindh, per the NIH, 7,504 tests have been conducted so far in the province of some-50 million people. Senator Murtaza Wahab, adviser to the Sindh C.M., told Geo News on Thursday night that the reason for the lag was because the provincial government had been building up testing capacity. “We were conducting 200-odds daily; now we have capacity for 1,800,” he said, adding that the actual testing was still limited to around 600 per day due to a shortage of testing kits.

Per the NIH, 783 patients have tested positive for COVID-19 in Sindh, while 6,721 have tested negative thus far.

Balochistan

In Balochistan, a province of some 13 million, NIH data says 2,171 tests have been administered out of which 169 have tested positive, while 2,002 have tested negative so far.

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

The least amount of tests administered thus far has been in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, also led by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party. According to the NIH, the province has administered 1,938 tests against a provincial population of 36-odd million. Of these, 1,627 have tested negative while 311 have tested positive for COVID-19.

Federal areas

Per the NIH, the remaining parts of Pakistan have administered 3,678 tests for COVID-19. Of these, 2,395 have been conducted in the federal capital; 322 in Pakistan-administered Kashmir; and 844 in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Globally, the virus has now infected more than 1,015,800 people, with over 53,200 reported deaths. Governments across the world have halted flights, locked down towns and cities and urged people to stay at home. Overall, around 208,000 patients of the 1 million+ infected have recovered thus far.

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