Senate body seeks briefing on funding to ministry against coronavirus, locust attacks

Updated 16 Jul 2020

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Science and technology panel briefed about difficulties being faced by ministry when it comes to funding. — APP/File
Science and technology panel briefed about difficulties being faced by ministry when it comes to funding. — APP/File

ISLAMABAD: A Senate committee has invited the Ministry of Finance and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) for a detailed briefing on distribution and funding, particularly to the Ministry of Science and Technology, to fight the coronavirus pandemic and locust attacks in the country.

The Senate Standing Committee on Science and Technology was briefed on Wednesday about the difficulties facing the science and technology ministry when it comes to funding.

The committee met at Parliament House to discuss in detail the measures the ministries and its concerned departments have taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The meeting began with a detailed overview of the ministry’s efforts to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Senators were told that various agencies working under the ministry have produced masks, hand sanitiser, temperature guns, disinfectant, walk-through gates and personal protective equipment in line with the World Health Organisation’s standards locally.

The committee was told that the Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) laboratories have been producing and supplying products to various government organisations. The products were manufactured in adherence to WHO standards and price regulation has been stringent.

To date, the PCSIR produced 48,630 litres of hand sanitiser, 10,730 litres of disinfectant spray and four walk-through gates. It is working with the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry on mass production.

The Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) has received 57 designs for ventilators, of which 14 prototypes have been shortlisted for evaluation and the designs for five devices have been approved for industrial grade models while two ventilators are in the process of approval from the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan and FDA and CE certification, ministry officials told senators.

Seven ventilators are in the second evaluation and design prototype stage.

On the topic of the coronavirus taskforce, the committee was told that 2,000 tests have been carried out by the National Institute of Virology, while medicine formulation is being researched with numerous medical institutes across the country and the study of the Sars-CoV-2 genome has been taken up as well.

A national information technology framework for tracking and tracing in the post-coronavirus situation has also been developed.

Committee chair Senator Mushtaq Ahmed praised the PEC and said the organisation must continue its work with other departments following suit.

He said the PEC has taken significant initiatives such as setting up the Pakistan Innovation and Testing Centre and manufacturing ventilators and electromagnetic devices locally.

Senator Ahmed also asked whether Pakistan is a member of the 75-country alliance on Covid-19, and said that these details along with any efforts to produce a vaccine must be submitted to the committee during its next meeting.

Published in Dawn, July 16th, 2020