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Pakistan begins vaccine roll-out

* Health workers who are on the frontline in fight against coronavirus as well as those vulnerable due to age will be vaccinated in first phase
* National tally of active Covid-19 cases climbs to 33,365 as 1,220 more people test positive

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday launched vaccination against the deadly coronavirus, initially for health workers, and urged the people to strictly adhere to the Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) to stop its spread.

After witnessing the administration of Covid-19 vaccine to health workers here, the prime minister said in the first phase, health workers, who are on the frontline in the fight against coronavirus, as well as those vulnerable due to age, will be vaccinated. He appreciated China for providing 0.5 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine to Pakistan. which, he assured, would be judiciously distributed across all the provinces. He urged the health workers to essentially get them vaccinated as per the international practice.

Imran Khan said though the coronavirus in Pakistan was subsiding, the people, however, should continue to take precautionary measures and follow the SOPs, including the use of face masks. He said contrary to various countries, including the Unites States and United Kingdom, where around 400,000 and 100,000 people, respectively, lost their lives to the Covid-19 and their economies badly affected due to lock-downs, the economy in Pakistan, except the services sector, was open and moving ahead. “We have already opened schools and will be opening the hostels as well. Coronavirus cases are on the decline. But we have to continue to follow the SOPs,” he maintained.

The premier also sought to assure the nation that the vaccine distribution across the various provinces is being done in a ‘just’ manner. “No one should think we distributed more vaccines in a given province than in others.”

China’s gift of 500,000 vaccines arrived in Pakistan on Monday, with storage arrangements made in advance in Islamabad. Dispatch of the vaccine to all federating units has been ensured, said the NCOC in a statement on Tuesday. It said Sindh and Balochistan were sent the vaccine by air, presumably to reduce time and ensure cold chain storage temperature.

It was earlier reported that Sindh will receive 8,300 doses which will be transported to Karachi via a commercial flight. A ceremony will be held at the Chief Minister House on Wednesday to kick-start the vaccination drive in Sindh, during which 41,500 healthcare workers will be vaccinated.

Meanwhile, the Balochistan government has asked the federal government to increase its quota of COVID-19 vaccines as 5,000 doses cannot cater to the province’s requirement.

A senior official of the Ministry of National Health Services, requesting not to be named, said it was a major development as Pakistan had been included in the list of countries that had stocks of Covid-19 vaccine. Besides the Sinopharm vaccine, the government has also approved the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and Russia’s Sputnik V shot for emergency use in Pakistan.

Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiative Asad Umar Tuesday said that the Covid-19 vaccination drive in all the provincial capitals would start from Wednesday (February 3). In his tweet, the minister said that the vaccination drive in Islamabad was launched on Tuesday in the presence of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said the frontline health workers would receive the vaccine on priority.

The national tally on Tuesday of total active Covid-19 cases was recorded at 33,365 as 1,220 more people tested positive for the deadly virus and 1,285 people recovered from the disease while the pandemic claimed sixty-three more lives.

Sixty-three patients have died during past 24 hours, 53 of whom were under treatment in hospitals and 10 in their respective homes or quarantines, according to the latest update issued by the National command and Operation Centre (NCOC). Most of the deaths occurred in Punjab, followed by Sindh.

Out of the total 63 deaths, 34 patients died on ventilators. The maximum ventilators were occupied in four major areas including Multan 45 percent, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) 35 percent, Peshawar 28 percent and Lahore 35 percent. The maximum oxygen beds were also occupied in four major areas of Peshawar 42 percent, Multan 33 percent, Karachi 33 percent and Rawalpindi 22 percent. Around 295 ventilators were occupied elsewhere in the country while no COVID affected person was on ventilator in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK), Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Balochistan. Around 502,537 people have recovered from the disease so far across Pakistan making it a significant count with over 90 percent recovery ratio of the affected patients. Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 547,648 cases were detected that also included the perished, recovered and under treatment COVID-19 patients so far, including AJK 9,050, Balochistan 18,830, GB 4,909, ICT 41,493, KP 67,419, Punjab 158,220 and Sindh 247,727.