Imran Khan
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan urges the need to build reliable medical infrastructure in the country. Image Credit: Twitter/PMO

Dubai: As Pakistan grapples to combat coronavirus with increasing number of cases, Prime Minister Imran Khan has urged the need to build its own reliable medical infrastructure.

“The coronavirus has brought to the fore that Pakistan needs to build its medical infrastructure and reduce dependency on foreign aid,” added Imran.

Speaking during this visit to COMSTECH exhibition in Islamabad on Wednesday, Prime Minister Imran said:

“We have a dependency syndrome; we don’t have that self-belief, we didn’t progress towards knowledge economy because we didn’t spend on education and research. Pakistanis excel once they immigrate; why can’t you create that system here?”

““We have to focus on building our medical infrastructure so that we are prepared for any such emergency situation in the future,”  he said and added that the COVID-19 crisis provided an opportunity to produce locally manufactured ventilators and protective equipment as everything cannot be imported.

COMSTECH stands for the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s Standing Committee on Scientific and Technological Cooperation for the promotion and cooperation of science and technology activities among the OIC member states.

“It is only now — with a global shortage — that we have found out that building ventilators isn’t that hard. The country that had the capacity to make nuclear bombs, how hard can it be for it to make ventilators?” he said.

“The biggest quality that takes a nation upwards is self-belief. This belief increases as the nation progresses and reaches a stage where the nation thinks it can overcome any challenge. The small island of Britain dominated the world. What did it have that was so special? It was self belief,” he noted

Prime Minister Imran also congratulated Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry for seeing the potential in a dormant industry, reported Dawn news.

Addressing the ceremony, Fawad Chaudhry said that one of Pakistan’s biggest mistakes was not linking military and civil research. “We have informally linked them now, defence and production industry,” Chaudhry said while adding that this has helped Pakistan produce equipment for battling coronavirus much faster.

He said that NTRC and Nust have made disinfecting robots, drones can be used to disinfect areas under quarantine. “A thermal monitoring camera has been developed, will detect without touching,” Chaudhry said.

He also praised the role of private sector in producing protective equipment for frontline workers.

“We were facing a shortage of protective equipment in Pakistan a few weeks ago, now all of Faisalabad city is making protective suits for doctors and frontline workers. Now there is a need for us to consider how many of these we need, the rest we should export,” Chaudhry said.

He further announced that Pakistan is now producing its own N-95 mask prototype. “While the masks being imported by Pakistan are costing Rs1,100, the ones we have created are going to cost Rs90 — a huge difference.” He also said that Pakistan took mere weeks to produce its own coronavirus testing kits.

He said Pakistan was facing a shortage of hand sanitisers and disinfectants a month and a half ago but “today, we are producing our own sanitisers and disinfectants and are in the position to export them. We are looking for the commerce ministry to lift the ban on its export for us to be able to do that,” Chaudhry said.

Meanwhile, the federal government is preparing to loosen coronavirus lockdown restrictions as the number of infections and deaths are “well below previous projections,” said Asad Umar, Minister of Planning.

Pakistan despite registering more than 15,7500 cases of Covid-19 including 346 deaths has already granted exemptions to dozens of sectors to open up over the last few days.

Umar said that infections and deaths in Pakistan were 30-35% lower than projections and, if things remained this way, the country could open up further in coming days.

Experts say Pakistan’s low numbers are due to limited testing. Currently Pakistan, a country of more than 207 million people, conducts about 8,000 tests a day.