PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa health department has procured Rs1.5 billion worth of ventilators, surgical masks and other essential items and more procurement is in the pipeline.

The information was shared by senior officials of the health department with the cabinet members, which held a special meeting here on Friday regarding the procurement of essential equipment for the treatment of coronavirus patients and personal protective equipment for the frontline health workers.

Chief Minister Mahmood Khan chaired the meeting to review the latest situation of coronavirus across the province.

The officials updated the cabinet on the coronavirus situation, including preventive and other measures taken by the government, and wheat procurement for the upcoming season.

They said the coronavirus testing capacity had been increased considerably, while efforts were under way to increase it further.

Cabinet examines coronavirus situation in province

Mr Mahmood directed the health department to take necessary steps to increase the testing capacity of public sector hospitals on war footing and increase the daily capacity to at least 2,000 tests in few weeks.

He asked the department concerned to release additional funds to the district health officers and medical superintendents of all district hospitals to enable them to effectively deal with any unwanted situation there and then.

The chief minister ordered the strict implementation of standard operating procedures in quarantine centers and isolation unitsset up at district level.

He directed the home and relief departments to make all necessary arrangements to facilitate members of Tableeghi Jamaat staying in different parts of the province.

Mr Mahmood also ordered speedy work on the Gomal Zam dam and Chashma Right Bank Canal project to help the province become self-sufficient in wheat production.

Later, adviser to the chief minister on information Ajmal Khan Wazir said the cabinet expressed satisfaction with wheat and flour stocks in the province and allowed the food department to use all available options for wheat procurement for the upcoming season.

He said the cabinet unanimously decided to extend public holidays and market closure for another week from next Sunday and approved in principle salary package for the professionals to be hired on a daily wage basis for backing up the existing health force fighting coronavirus.

“The professionals to be hired include pathologists, pulmonologists, nurses and other medical staff,” he said.

The adviser said the recruitment process would be advertised in newspapers, on websites and by other mediums of mass communication by next Tuesday and that the hired people would be deputed in various districts on need basis.

He said the cabinet decided in principle to waive off provincial taxes and levies to the construction industry in the province.

Regarding the distribution of money under the government’s relief package, Mr Wazir said 2.1 million households of the province would be paid Rs12,000 cash in the first phase and Rs6,000 in the second.

Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2020