KARACHI: The working capacity of The Indus Hospital (TIH) to diagnose coronavirus (Covid-19) infection has been tripled as the National Institute of Virology, Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) and the University of Karachi joined hands with the hospital.

The National Institute of Virology (NIV) has provided four real-time PCR (polymerase chain reaction) machines and qualified virology experts to the hospital so that working burden of diagnosis could be handled easily.

Prof Dr M. Iqbal Choudhary, director of the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS), KU said this on Saturday while speaking at a meeting of virology experts held at the NIV.

The meeting was also attended by Dr Mohammad Rashid, senior research officer of the NIV, Dr Ammar Ather and other scientists.

Prof Choudhary said: “The hospital, which is working in collaboration with the government of Sindh, is facing immense workload in the process of diagnosis due to increasing number of coronavirus cases in Sindh.” Currently, the major challenge in Pakistan is very limited diagnostic capabilities, he said, adding that the WHO had declared the timely diagnosis of the disease as the major step in stopping the spread of Covid-19 as undetected infected individuals were the biggest source of infecting others.

Following current health challenges, PCMD has decided to run a major joint operation with the Indus Hospital and placed four state-of-the-art RT-PCR machines, and trained personnel at the hospital, he said.

PCR are sophisticated machines on which actual tests of Covid-19 are carried out, he added.

He said, “Indus Hospital is currently the ‘epicentre’ of all Covid-19 related activities in Sindh, which is the worst hit province of Pakistan with 65 per cent confirmed cases.”

Through the help of the ICCBS, the current testing capacity of the Indus lab has increased from 800 to 2,400 daily, he said.

“We think it is an excellent example of a university based research centre helping the national healthcare system at the time of national health emergency,” Prof Choudhary observed.

He added that precaution was the only weapon to fight against coronavirus.

‘Large grocery stores must be avoided’

In the meeting, virology exert Dr Rashid said people must avoid public gatherings.

He said that large grocery stores and shopping malls should not be used for shopping while open-street shops, where people were not gathered in large numbers, were better options for buying groceries.

He added that children should not be allowed to go outside as these holidays were announced in case of an emergency, not for a picnic.

Dr Ather said that citizens must take preventive measures that could keep them safe against the deadly coronavirus.

He said that citizens were advised to practice good hygiene and wash their hands frequently and thoroughly or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if soap and water were not available.

Published in Dawn, March 22nd, 2020