The Australian High Commission has launched an initiative with the National Institute of Health (NIH) to help double COVID-19 testing capacity across Islamabad and the four provincial capitals of Pakistan. The Australian grant will be administered by the Asian Development Bank through the National Disaster Risk Management Fund (NDRMF).
Australia’s assistance aims to enhance genomic sequencing capacity for the early detection of new variants. This includes training 500 healthcare workers to use new lab equipment safely and effectively.
To support the Pakistan Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19 Pandemic and protect the vulnerable, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and NDRMF are fast-tracking the project’s implementation.
“Australia stands with the people and government of Pakistan in the battle against COVID-19. Strengthening the capacity of laboratories is critical to preventing transmission of the virus, especially as new variants emerge,” Australia’s High Commissioner, Dr. Geoffrey Shaw, said.
The initiative with NIH is the latest in a range of COVID-19 response projects by Australia in Pakistan. Australia has also contributed AUD 130 million to the COVAX Facility to ensure equitable access of the vaccines to 92 countries, including Pakistan.
“While we have entered the vaccination stage of the pandemic, lessons from around the world continue to highlight the importance of public health preparedness. Australia is pleased to support Pakistan to undertake COVID-19 surveillance and vaccination simultaneously,” High Commissioner Shaw added.
The Executive Director of NIH, Major General Aamer Ikram said, “NIH deeply appreciates Australia’s grant for pandemic management. This project is designed to upgrade NIH equipment and improve our diagnostic capabilities.”
Australia’s support will be put to immediate use in Pakistan’s drive to combat COVID-19.