PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has made the Covid-19 testing mandatory for the people visiting hospitals with respiratory illness and flu-like symptoms to learn about the incidence of the infection in the province.
Officials told Dawn that special counters had been set up in all tehsil and district hospitals for the testing of such patients.
According to them, the department has directed the medical superintendents of hospitals, district health officers and medical directors of the medical teaching intuitions to ensure the testing of patients with flu, temperature and respiratory problems for coronavirus.
The officials said the new strategy had been implemented on the recommendations of the National Command and Operations Centre, which met on Monday.
In the meeting, which was also attended by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary Dr Kazim Niaz, the representatives of all provinces, Islamabad Capital Territory, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan expressed their respective viewpoint on the declining Covid-19 testing and gave suggestions to increase it.
Govt initiative meant to learn about Covid-19 incidence
The officials said the NCOC decided about an increase in Covid-19 testing across the country saying it was difficult without investigating the suspected people to declare victory against coronavirus in view of fewer deaths and cases.
They said the health department had set up Covid-19 testing counters in all hospitals of the province to carry out mandatory testing for all admitted cases of severe acute respiratory infections.
The officials said the hospitals had also been instructed to carry out random testing of Influenza-like illness cases to learn about Covid-19 prevalence in the province.
They said the chief secretary, in line with the NCOC decision, directed the mobilisation of the rapid response teams in hot spots with higher number of contact tracing and testing.
The officials said the number of Covid-19 testing had decreased during the last few days and the people couldn’t be forced into undergoing tests.
The health department collected 1,384 swabs for Covid-19 tests on Aug 1, 648 on Aug 2 and 625 on Aug 3.
The province has the capacity to do 8,000 virus tests daily.
Officials said the World Health Organisation had been urging the government to enhance testing to be able to diagnose positive cases and segregate them from the general population as a step towards stopping of the virus transmission.
They said the medical teaching institutions had recorded 80 per cent reduction in Covid-19 patients but the government wanted to investigate it scientifically if the virus had become less infective or the people weren’t willing to undergo testing due to which cases had dropped.
The officials said the health department had conducted 1,600 Covid-19 tests of suspected patients in cattle markets of five districts, including Mardan, Peshawar, Swat, Nowshera and Charsadda, ahead of Eidul Azha and found only 67 of them to be virus patients showing the virus incidence is on the decline.
They, however, said the nationwide reduction in cases had prompted the NCOC to alert all hospitals to test the vulnerable population to know about the exact Covid-19 incidence.
The officials said for the last one week, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had recorded 19 swab positivity showing the infection is present in the province.
They, however, said testing needed to be increased to trace all patients.
The officials said if the number of positive cases was five per cent and above then it would be an indication of more cases, so anti-coronavirus efforts should be expedited.
They said if the virus incidence was less than five per cent, it meant the cases were on the decline.
The officials said chief secretary Dr Kazim was overseeing the situation and had directed the health department to report compliance with new directives on a daily basis.
Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2020