President Dr Arif Alvi on Thursday issued a clarification after photos and videos of him wearing a N-95 mask at a meeting sparked criticism among medical professionals who claimed that personal protective equipment (PPE) was being "misused" by politicians.
On Wednesday, President Alvi — wearing a N-95 mask — had chaired a briefing session by the Punjab government regarding coronavirus at the Civil Secretariat in Lahore. He had also addressed the participants on the occasion.
According to some, this was particularly problematic as the government has been convincing people that only health professionals deputed in quarantine centres and isolation wards should wear N-95 masks.
Taking to Twitter today, the president issued a clarification on the issue.
"As a doctor, I am strongly aware of misuse and wastage. I was reusing the N-95 mask that was given to me in China."
"Finally its strap broke yesterday so in next meeting at Wing Commander Nouman Akram Shaheed's house, you see me wearing a regular public mask," the president said. "I hope my clarification finds equal billing."
The president on Wednesday had paid a visit to the house of Wing Commander Nouman Akram, who was martyred in a crash last month.
Amid widespread criticism of President Alvi, the Pakistan Medical Association had issued a statement that politicians and bureaucrats should not wear N-95 masks.
“The PMA has observed that protective items required for healthcare providers working for coronavirus or non-coronavirus patients are being misused. Particularly the misuse of N-95 masks has been observed by a large number of PMA members and the general public," the statement had said.
“These days politicians and bureaucrats are often seen wearing N-95 masks during meetings and visits, whereas health professionals are facing a dire shortage of N-95 masks and PPEs.
“This is important to note that N-95 masks are not necessary for everybody. They are only needed in quarantine and isolation facilities for health providers treating coronavirus patients, who are at the highest risk of acquiring coronavirus. Doctors should be protected as they are frontline soldiers against coronavirus.”
PMA Secretary General Dr Qaisar Sajjad had said there were different types of masks available for healthcare providers and the general public.
“The general public can use handmade washable masks, which should be washed every day. Surgical masks are for healthcare workers who are treating non-corona patients at primary care level and during surgeries. The media should play their due role for these types of awareness positively,” he added.
Earlier, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza had alleged that doctors were misusing personal protective equipment.
He had told the media that guidelines had been made according to which only health professionals working in isolation wards were advised to wear N-95 masks.
He had insisted that even patients in isolation wards and sanitary workers in hospitals should not wear N-95 masks.