Balochistan decides to only test Covid-19 patients showing symptoms due to meagre testing capacity

Updated 06 May 2020

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According to a statement released by the provincial health department, the Fatima Jinnah Laboratory has been closed for the public. — Reuters/File
According to a statement released by the provincial health department, the Fatima Jinnah Laboratory has been closed for the public. — Reuters/File

The Balochistan health department on Tuesday decided to only test those citizens who are showing Covid-19 symptoms due to a lack of testing capacity.

According to a statement released by the provincial health department, the Fatima Jinnah Laboratory has been closed for the public — the lab was the only facility where residents could get themselves tested for the respiratory illness.

"Those suspected of having contracted the virus will only be tested after they have completed a mandatory 14-day quarantine period at home," the statement said.

It added that the decision has been taken due to a lack of testing capacity at the laboratory; the results of more than 2,000 tests have already been delayed.

The statement, however, contradicted claims made by Balochistan government spokesperson Liaquat Shahwani who — while speaking at a press conference in Quetta earlier in the day — had said that the province will no longer "face a dearth of testing kits and equipment".

Shahwani said: "We had asked the federal government to provide us with 50,000 PCR kits. But, we did not receive the entire shipment."

However, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has now given us testing kits, he said, adding that the federal government had also given 14,000 testing kits. "Our labs and machinery are increasing," he said.

Shahwani maintained that a reshuffle within the health department staff had caused the delay in test results for the past two days, adding that the staff has been working tirelessly.

He added that the government was in the process of setting up another laboratory at Bolan Medical College which will ramp up the province's testing capacity. "Our testing capacity will then increase by 400-450 tests per day," he said.

Balochistan extends lockdown till May 19

Shahwani said that a decision regarding extending, relaxing or terminating the lockdown in the province would be based on the severity of the outbreak.

Speaking at a press conference in Quetta, he said: "If we manage to control the situation then the lockdown will be relaxed. But if it continues to spread then we will extend it."

He added that during the past two weeks, there has been a rapid increase in the number of local transmissions. "The ratio for the spread of local transmissions is 88 per cent," he said.

Because of this, the death rate is also rising, he said. "Previously, our recovery rate was 55pc but it has declined for the past two weeks and is now 15pc.

"Keeping these alarming figures in mind, the Balochistan government has decided to extend the lockdown in the province for another two weeks till May 19," he said.

He urged the people to follow the standard operating procedures outlined by the government to control the spread of the virus. "If the people do not follow the guidelines, the government will be forced to take stricter measures," he warned.