ISLAMABAD                -               Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Friday said the sharp increase in coronavirus cases witnessed over the last few days is due to the increased number of tests being conducted now.

In a series of tweets on Friday, he said, “national effort to increase COVID-19 testing capacity is producing results. Total tests conducted on March 15 were 472. [On] 11th of April this increased to 2457. On 16th of April 5,540 tests [were conducted] and yesterday [16 April] 6,264 tests [were conducted]” and added, “This is a 13-fold increase in 1 month. Need to continue scaling up!”

He said average daily COVID-19 positive cases reported in the last two days were 509 vs average of 281 from April 10 to 15. This is due to scaling up of testing. During the last 2 days, average tests were 5,892 vs average of 2,918 tests from April 10 to 15. According to the second tweet, positive results during the last 2 days were 8.6 percent Vs 9.6 percent from April 10 to 15.

Meanwhile, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza said that Pakistan now has nearly one million testing kits and more than 20,000 tests will be carried out daily by the month’s end. He said these tests will help the authorities identify the people who have coronavirus infection whether they exhibit symptoms or not.

Addressing media at the National Coordination and Operation Centre (NCOC) headquarters here, he said it would be very premature to say that all deaths occurring in the country are due to the pandemic. He said primary method of ascertaining whether a person has died due to COVID-19 is a laboratory test. He asked the people to avoid speculations on the reasons for deaths and that tests should be carried out to ascertain the actual cause for what he termed unexplained deaths.

Zafar Mirza said that the government will issue an advisory for doctors working in emergencies about how they should receive dead on arrival cases or critically ill patients. The advisory will contain instructions on how and when to carry out tests of such people if doctors clinically suspect they are COVID-19 positive, Mirza added. He told the media that Sindh health authorities had started a process of contact tracing after some recent unexplained deaths, which he termed as a welcome move. He said it was premature to believe that the recent deaths in Karachi were due to COVID-19 and also urged the media not to speculate during a time of crisis.

The nationwide tally of COVID-19 patients has reached 7,261 with 3,301 cases in Punjab, 2,217 in Sindh, 993 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 303 in Balochistan, 245 in Gilgit-Baltistan, 154 in Islamabad, and 48 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. The virus has claimed 135 lives while at least 1,765 Coronavirus patients have recovered.

He also said the federal government will introduce a digital platform named “Yaran-e-Watan” on Saturday to enable overseas Pakistani health professionals to give their inputs for overcoming coronavirus pandemic. He said the federal government is working in cohesion with all provincial governments to mitigate adverse impacts of coronavirus pandemic.

Expressing regret over media reports linking all recent deaths in Karachi with coronavirus, he clarified that this was not appropriate move, and the government will release an advisory in this regard on Saturday.