National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal told the media on Tuesday that he meant to acquire 10,000 additional ventilators over the next few months in order to cope with any health crisis, such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
While addressing the media at a news briefing alongside Prime Minister Imran Khan, Afzal revealed that there were around 2,200 ventilators across Pakistan at the moment. Only around half of these would be available if needed for Covid-19 patients, he added.
"Unfortunately, nothing is available anywhere except in China," he said. "Let me tell you China's situation as well. I call the Chinese ambassador around three to four times a day and meet him once or twice. I talk to NDRC (National Development and Reform Commission) and foreign ministry of China. After all this, now they are issuing instructions to their factories to provide the material Pakistanis are asking for [as a] preferred buyer."
He said that acquiring protective gear for doctors and health staff was the first priority and "a small number" will arrive tomorrow while another batch will arrive on Thursday. The protective equipment included around a million masks, out of which 50,000 were N-95, he told reporters.
He added that the material to prepare protective gear will also arrive and will be manufactured in a factory in Lahore.
Furthermore, 50,000 testing kits will arrive on Thursday.
By the end of this week, a significant number of protective gear and other equipment will arrive via air as well as by road. He revealed that the border will be opened for a day so that the equipment can be transported into the country.
He told reporters that he had held meetings with local producers as well and had told them to order whatever they needed to manufacture medical equipment from China.
"I told them that I will get you clearance from State Bank, FIA, Customs. Just bring the material here [in Pakistan]," said Lt Gen Afzal.
He said that local production had started to increase. Afzal said that the government had provided ample funds to the NDMA but several countries, including those in Europe had already signed contracts for yearly supply of ventilators and medical equipment.