Govt to financially support researchers, scientists in battling coronavirus Steps underway to enhance nationwide laboratory testing capacity: NDMA chief

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ZUBAIR QURESHI
Higher Education Commission (HEC) has been asked to invite university researchers, scientists, technicians, manufacturers and other Pakistani experts, based either in the country or abroad, to submit proposals that can assist the government in its fight against the Covid-19 outbreak. This was stated by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza while addressing the daily media briefing here on Monday. Flanked by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen (R) Mohammad Afzal and PM’s Special Assistant on National Security, Moeed Yusuf, Dr Mirza said HEC has constituted this programme to streamline flurry of ideas from experts and innovators into a single structured initiative. The commission will be providing generous funding – from Rs5 million up to Rs15 million – to prospective researchers if their ideas are accepted, he revealed. The government of Pakistan, with assistance from HEC, will help you in developing your ideas. And if your idea is practical and effective, we would like nothing more than to implement it,” Zafar Mirza said. “If you have any ideas against Covid-19 prevention, its treatment and on the affects that emerge from it, please submit your proposals to HEC. They have issued an advertisement in that regard. The deadline to apply for this initiative is April 3, 2020,” Zafar added. In its advertisement titled ‘Quick-Response Research on Covid-19; Rapid Research and Innovation Proposals’, HEC would be assisted by the World Bank in its initiative to invite research proposals on several different themes regarding the treatment and prevention of Covid-19. Speaking on the occasion, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Security D r Moeed Yusu f dismissed reports in a section of media that flights were being resumed from April 5. He said no such decision was under consideration. He also revealed that there were no more Pakistani transit passengers stranded at any airport around the world. Yusu f also denied Pakistan Railways was resuming its normal schedule from April 1, urging citizens to avoid rumours and only pay attention to official sources. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen Mohammad Afzal on this occasion assured the nation that steps were being taken to increase the country’s testing capacity. Gen Afzal said Sindh had been provided with 20,000 testing kits, Punjab 5,000, Balochistan 4,800 and that up to 37,000 kits had been put into reserve. “We’re also requesting Balochistan to identify sites for testing so that we can start building labs there,” he said. He added that Pakistan had flown 4 to 5 planes to China and was expecting China to send 16 ventilators and 5,000 personal protective equipment by tomorrow. “Uptil now, we’ve booked 3,000 ventilators. But keep in mind, we don’t expect all of them to arrive given their current demand around the world,” cautioned Lt Gen Afzal.