PESHAWAR: Health department will use new technology to conduct tests of suspected people conveniently and rapidly to increase screening of Covid-19 patients and know the exact prevalence of the pandemic among the population.

Officials said that as per the present mechanism, samples from the suspected patients were collected only in the designated centres and hospitals. It delayed detection of patients, they added.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa recorded 18 new Covid-19 patients on Monday, according to a report of health department. So far, 220,526 patients have been diagnosed positive since advent of the pandemic and 6,326 have died. There are 351 active cases in the province presently.

National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has donated 10,000 spit rapid antigen test kits to the health department. These kits are better than the existing ones. Health department has decided to procure the new technology, which enables the individuals to conduct their own tests. Saliva is collected from the suspected person and placed and result comes within 10 minutes by using the new technology.

KP records 18 new cases of virus

Officials said that introduction of spit test antigen kits was needed to enhance screening and know the clear picture regarding prevalence of coronavirus. Presently, positivity rate is 2.8 per cent but only 658 tests are conducted.

The health department has been issuing letters to the public health laboratories at the district level to enhance screening but the number of tests has remained 2,000 on average during the past one week.

Officials said that the province recorded mortalities from the virus on July 8 and 17. They said that those deaths were recorded after April 4. They said that department wanted to increase level of screening, especially in Peshawar, Malakand, Mardan, Nowshera, Upper Dir and Chitral Lower as more cases were detected in those areas.

They said that they needed to conduct at least 7,000 tests per day. Currently, samples are taken from throat of the suspected patients by professionally trained persons. The method is painful and the people skip hospitals to give specimen that is the main reason of low investigation.

Officials said that the NCOC had been directing the province to accelerate Covid-19 screening as new sub-variants were being detected in different countries that were more infectious.

They said that the latest technology, already used and approved by Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, would expedite screening of the high-risk population. Contact tracing is necessary but it is difficult in the existing mechanism, which also exposes the staff involved in sample-taking to infection. The spit rapid kits are safe.

Officials said that the department was awaiting the extension of health emergency by the government to go ahead with procurement of the new kits and 10-time enhance testing ratio. They said that the province required to extend public health emergency expired on June 30 to be able to make prompt procurements including PPEs and medicines for Covid-19 patients and give authorisation to the administration to take action for violation of stand operating procedure in case of spike in cases.

A report prepared by the sub-office of World Health Organisation said that 55 Covid-19 patients were confirmed on July 15 after a long gap as on March 20, province-wide positive patients were 60.

It said that of the total, 15 were severe acute respiratory infection cases and two tested positive while 156 had influenza-like illness (ILI). It added that 40 tested positive at 16 sentinel sites in Peshawar, Abbottabad and Malakand.

Peshawar and Abbottabad have two per cent bed occupancy each while Swat has four per cent bed occupancy rate. A total of 24 patients are being treated in hospitals with none of them on ventilator.

Published in Dawn, July 19th, 2022

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