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Combating coronavirus: Made-in-Pakistan medical equipment to help world fight Covid-19

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The country has mobilised its well-established industries to make essential equipment at a fraction of the original cost.

Pakistan has made significant progress in its fight against coronavirus, and the country has not just become self-sufficient in essential medical equipment like masks, sanitisers, ventilators and oxygenators, but is also ready for exporting them in order to help other countries in their fight against the pandemic, said Fawad Chaudhry, Pakistan’s Minister for Science and Technology.

“We are now all set to export various items related to Covid-19, and the second phase of exports will begin as soon as the Ministry of Commerce issues the necessary instructions in this regard,” the minister noted.

Highlighting the strides that Pakistan has made over the last few months, Chaudhry pointed out that when the country’s first Covid-19 case was reported on February 26, 2020, there was a shortage of such medical equipment and the south Asian nation was not in a position to manufacture it in enough quantities indigenously. However, Pakistani engineers and medics took the challenge head-on and, in a short span of two months, the country is ready to not just cater to local demand, but also export high-quality medical equipment to countries who most need it.

“From February 26 to March 5, we had a shortage of even hand sanitisers and disinfectants. But within two months, we were not only self-sufficient but also in a position to export both the items. In fact, we are producing top-quality disinfectants used in operation theatres,” Chaudhry told The National Tribune, elaborating how the pandemic has been as an opportunity in disguise for Pakistan’s medical equipment and healthcare sectors.

Textile power: Fabric of manufacturing

Chaudhry explained how the country’s large and well-established textile industry has helped it not just become self-sufficient but also export face masks to other countries. “We have saved a lot of money in terms of import costs. The cotton masks are being exported from the country while sanitiser exports will start in a week,” he added.

Pakistan government withdrew duties and taxes on import of the raw cotton in January 2020, helping the industry immensely. “The Ministry of Science and Technology worked with the textile industry and now we are producing 76 per cent of merchandise here in Pakistan. Personal protective gears and all kinds of masks – including N-95 masks used in operation theatres – are being manufactured here. The import cost of the mask was $7, which we are now manufacturing locally for less than $1,” the minister said.

Recently, the Ministry of Science and Technology, in cooperation with Pakistan Engineering Council, hosted an exhibition of medical products at Comstech Centre where the country’s exhibitors showcased their potential to produce essential medical supplies.

Self-sufficiency in ventilators: Breath of fresh air

On the engineering side, the minister said Pakistan is working on manufacturing oxygenators and ventilators in order to meet its domestic needs.

“Pakistan Engineering Council (PEC) was tasked to come up with ideas of ventilators and oxygenators. Around 58 designs were received and 13 of them were shortlisted. Now, seven designs are in the final stage of licensing. We have not compromised on their quality, and they meet European and American standards. That’s why we will be able to export them to Europe, the US or any other country,” Chaudhry told this newspaper.

The minister praised Pakistani engineers, technicians and organisations for producing these essential medical suppliers in such a short span of time.

“I don’t think any other so-called third world country has achieved this feat, turning calamity into an opportunity. We are proud of our engineers, technicians, organisations who have done really well in combating Covid-19,” the minister concluded.

As on May 5, 2020, the number of confirmed Covid-19 infections in Pakistan, the world’s fifth-most populous country, is 21,000 with 476 deaths and 5,635 recoveries.