Pakistan to jack virus tests up to 30,000 daily after infections spike

People in the Pakistani city of Karachi have started going to shopping malls again after they reopened following a Supreme Court on May 18, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 04 June 2020

Pakistan to jack virus tests up to 30,000 daily after infections spike

  • Follows the deaths of 1,688 people, three lawmakers from coronavirus
  • Approves self-quarantine options for inbound passengers; export of PPE units

ISLAMABAD: With 4,131 people testing positive for coronavirus in the past 24 hours, Pakistan on Wednesday recorded the highest number of infections in a single day, taking the overall count to 80,463 cases from across the country.

It resulted in the government vowing to increase the testing capacity from 17,000 to 30,000 per day to limit the spread of the outbreak, which has killed 1,688 people thus far.

“The government has set up more coronavirus testing laboratories in the country to meet (the criteria of) 30,000 tests per day,” Asad Umar, Planning and Development Minister said after a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

The announcement follows the deaths of three Pakistani lawmakers who tested positive for coronavirus and succumbed to the disease. 

It includes Munir Khan Orakzai from the National Assembly of the Kurram district, Sindh’s provincial minister Ghulam Murtaza Baloch, and Mian Jamshed-ud-Din, a member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly and the provincial lawmaker from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

After nearly two months of a partial lockdown, Pakistan decided to lift the restrictions in May to reboot the frail economy. Still, it urged citizens to follow all standard operating procedures (SOPs) to stem the outbreak. 

Critics blame the government for the rapid increase in infections which they say is a result of the relaxed measures.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday the government also approved a self-quarantine policy for all inbound passengers and the export of domestically-manufactured Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

“We have been able to further increase the number of inbound passengers per week through expediting the testing process – with 20,000 passengers planned for repatriation by 10th June, up from approx. 10,000 in the previous phase,” Moeed Yusuf, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Security Division and Strategic Policy Planning, tweeted on Tuesday.

He added that all passengers would be “tested on arrival & sent home for self-isolation without having to wait for test results.” 

“They’ll be added to the Track & Trace system & provincial governments will be able to follow up to ensure health & safety of passengers & the public.”


Abu Dhabi's Etihad auditing Pakistan-issued pilot licences amid concerns

Updated 4 min 18 sec ago

Abu Dhabi's Etihad auditing Pakistan-issued pilot licences amid concerns

  • Says it is trying to verify the qualifications and licenses of the Pakistani pilots employed by the airlines
  • UAE's General Civil Aviation Authority said in a statement it was in contact with authorities in Pakistan over the issue 

DUBAI: Etihad Airways is auditing its pilots with Pakistan-issued licenses, the Abu Dhabi airline said on Thursday.
Last month, Pakistan grounded 262 pilots amid suspicions they cheated on their examinations to operate aircraft, and the United Arab Emirates aviation regulator has said it was reviewing licenses issued in the country.
"We have worked closely with the (UAE) General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA) to verify the qualifications and licenses of the Pakistani pilots employed by Etihad," an Etihad spokeswoman told Reuters.
"While we can confirm the authenticity of these pilots, we are however carrying out further precautionary due diligence with an additional audit."
The GCAA in a statement released earlier on Thursday said it was reviewing its records to ensure no "suspicious licences issued by the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority" had entered its system.
The GCAA said it was in contact with Pakistani authorities but did not indicate whether it had taken any preliminary action against pilots with licences issued in the country.
On Tuesday, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) suspended two Pakistani airlines' authorization to fly to the bloc for six months.
A day earlier Vietnam announced that it was grounding all 12 Pakistani pilots working in the country.