LAHORE: The Advance Diagnostic Laboratory (ADL) in the city is prepared to perform the test of suspected new coronavirus patients.

It will make Punjab the first province in the country that will perform the test for the new virus. The National Institute of Health (NIH), Islamabad, was previously the only place in the country where this test is possible.

The ADL located at the Primary & Secondary Healthcare Department (P&SHD) on Jail Road has acquired the essential equipment and got a team of experts to draw samples and assess these. It was earlier offering test facilities for suspected AIDS patients only.

It has been recognised/certified to perform tests on the coronavirus patients after it met the criteria under new standard protocols issued by the World Health Organizations following the outbreak in China.

The federal government has provided required kits, special suits (dress) and other logistic support to perform tests on the suspected coronavirus patients. A five-member team of experts from Punjab had already got training from the NIH Islamabad to draw samples of suspected patients and perform tests.

“We have made ADL fully functional to combat coronavirus by providing the best healthcare facility as per the directions of the government,” Health Secretary Muhammad Usman said.

The diagnosis and testing of coronavirus had been a daunting task globally particularly in the wake of its outbreak in China, he told Dawn.

Declaring it a major initiative, he said the ADL had been fully equipped and made functional for coronavirus diagnosis and its testing at molecular level.

“Bio-Safety Level-III, as well as HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) negative pressure system has also been made fully operational to ensure the safety of scientists working at the Lab and environmental protection,” said Mr Usman.

He further said the health security and precautionary measures had been ensured by the health department along with the availability of protective equipment under the guidelines of the WHO. He added that the PS&HD had already established a coronavirus monitoring system to vigilantly monitor the disease.

To make the testing effective, he said, all qualified members had been trained by the National Institute of Health, Islamabad.

“Moreover, an adequate amount of logistics including personal protective equipment is available in the department,” he said while giving credit to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar who made this scheme possible.

He further said the five-member team of master trainers of the health department had recently trained all the relevant staff including medics of various districts/cities including Multan, Rawalpindi and Sialkot.

Answering a question, the health secretary said the experts associated with sampling and treatment of the suspected coronavirus patients had been provided full-body medical suits besides kits to stop transmission of the virus.

Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2020