WASHINGTON: Pakistani physicians based in the United States are being asked to finance the purchase of ventilators from China to help their country of origin amid the coronavirus outbreak, said an embassy official on Monday.
“They are on the forefront in the fight against this disease in the United States and are also willing to do whatever they can to help the country of their origin,” Pakistan ambassador Asad Majeed Khan told Dawn.
Like the rest of the international community, Pakistan also needs medical supplies, particularly ventilators, to deal with this crisis, as it has only a few thousands of these life-saving instruments. One option was to urge the US government to send some ventilators to Pakistan.
“But we realise that there’s an acute shortage of ventilators in the United States as well,” he said. “So, we are asking Pakistani physicians and others to finance the purchase of ventilators from China.”
APPNA, an organisation representing Pakistani physicians in North America, has contacted suppliers in China for buying ventilators for Pakistan.
APPNA has also opened a command centre in Lahore for providing N-95 and KN-95 masks, protective gowns and other equipment to doctors in Pakistan.
In the US, the Pakistani embassy is working with APPNA and Pakistani restaurants to provide free meals to those stranded because of the lockdown.
“We are working with the US officials to send those Pakistanis home on first available flights,” said the ambassador. “And we are also working with the US Embassy in Islamabad to bring back Pakistani-Americans stranded there.”
The Pakistanis stranded in the US were also concerned about their visas, which would expire if they continued to stay. “We contacted US State Department officials on this issue and they assured us that those stranded in the US because of this epidemic will get a 180-day grace period,” he said.
For those Pakistani students who were in the US on scholarships and needed to return, “the embassy will arrange flights for their return”, he added.
Published in Dawn, March 31st, 2020