Chinese government together with Alibaba Foundation sent a cargo plane to Pakistan carrying several tonnes of medical supplies Image Credit: Supplied

Islamabad: Amid the dwindling stocks of essential medical equipment, Pakistan is set to receive tonnes of gear for health workers from both domestic and foreign suppliers. A small number will arrive within three days, which will be immediately provided to doctors, and health staff who are the “first priority.”

On Wednesday morning, the Chinese government together with Alibaba Foundation sent a cargo plane to Pakistan carrying several tonnes of medical supplies, including N95 and surgical masks, which was due to arrive in Karachi on March 25.

Pakistan’s “brother and friend” China has helped by making immense contributions to help combat the virus, said Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal addressing a press briefing earlier. He expressed gratitude to the government and people of China for planeload of needed supplies on behalf of Pakistani nation.

He also informed that a team of Chinese medical experts would soon arrive in Pakistan to advise on the treatment, precautionary measures and technical management to contain the spread of the disease. Pakistan is set to receive 500,000 masks, 50,000 N95 respirators and 50,000 test kits within two days from the Chinese tech giant, Alibaba.

“Around 120 ventilators will reach Pakistan by this weekend from China while 10 ventilators have already been delivered” informed Chairman of National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal. “Nearly 14 tonnes of materials including personal protection equipment (PPEs) will also reach by Friday (March 27).”

The total number of ventilators available across the country for critically-ill coronavirus patients is nearly 2000. “In the second phase [of the contingency plan], Pakistan hopes to increase the number of ventilators to 1200 and eventually to 4000 in the third phase” the chairman claimed.

Pakistan shifts to production of supplies

Amid the global shortage of medical supplies, Pakistan has shifted its focus to the production of essential materials and is now producing surgical and N95 masks, gowns, hand sanitisers and has also started working on developing ventilators. “Pakistani engineers are developing a prototype ventilator” which will be a breakthrough, he announced.

This week, a young Pakistani doctor, Dr Usama Riaz, lost his life while treating coronavirus patients and was declared a national hero by the government. His death raised alarm bells about the declining supplies of ventilators, gowns, surgical masks, N95 respirators, eye protection and intensive care unit equipment.

“Pakistan government’s top priority at the moment is the provision of safety gear for doctors and paramedic staff”, who were in direct contact with the coronavirus infected patients. NDMA chairman hopes the equipment Pakistan is set to receive in the coming weeks would help the health care workers who are in dire need of protective equipment. Pakistan expects to increase its virus testing capacity to 1 million after receiving the procured medical equipment.

Pakistan’s confirmed coronavirus cases: 1,000
Sindh: 413
Punjab: 296
Balochistan: 115
GB: 81
KP: 78
ICT: 16
AJK: 1

Deaths: 7
Recovered: 19
Suspected cases being tested: 7,736
Suspected cases in quarantine: 4,788

Much of Pakistan goes into lockdown

As Pakistan’s tally reached 1000 (on March 25 afternoon), much of the country is under lockdown for two weeks as part of drastic measures by the government to contain the spread of the highly contagious disease. Pakistan’s Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has ordered the deployment of troops and military’s medical resources under Article 245 to assist federal and provincial governments to combat the virus.

Pakistan’s Health Minister Zafar Mirza disclosed on Tuesday that there were 7,736 suspected patients who are either undergoing tests or waiting to be tested. Sharing the latest analysis, he said, Pakistan has now determined that 78 percent of the confirmed cases had a travel history to Iran. Out of the total confirmed cases, 63 percent of coronavirus patients in Pakistan are men as compared to 37 percent of women.