Prime Minister Imran Khan and first lady Bushra Bibi have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, it emerged on Saturday.
The premier's diagnosis was confirmed by his aide on health Dr Faisal Sultan. He said that PM Imran was self-isolating at home after testing positive.
Later in the evening, PTI Senator Faisal Javed announced that Bushra Bibi had also tested positive.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Health Services clarified that the premier was not "fully vaccinated" when he contracted the virus.
"He only got the first dose merely two days ago which is too soon for ANY vaccine to become effective. Antibodies develop 2-3 weeks after the second dose of 2-dose Covid vaccines," it said.
Later in the day, Dr Sultan addressed a media briefing to clear up misconceptions about the prime minister's diagnosis two days after being vaccinated.
He said PM Imran had been advised to isolate at home and rest. "We are monitoring his health and clinical parameters." He said that currently the prime minister was not in need of treatment or medical intervention.
He went on to say that it was important to understand how vaccines worked. "No vaccine works immediately after being administered. Antibodies can take at least two to three weeks to develop."
He said that for two-dose vaccines, such as the one from Sinopharm, antibodies could take two to three weeks to develop after the second dose.
"Therefore, it is obvious that the premier's immunity had not developed when he was vaccinated. It is possible that he was exposed [to the virus] before and it was already present in his body," the PM's aide said, adding that it was important to clarify these questions.
Dr Sultan said that all those PM Imran had been in contact with would be tested and urged them to isolate themselves for the time being.
He concluded by urging citizens to follow precautionary measures to stem the spread of the disease. "We are seeing a huge number of cases and the country's positivity rate is 9.5pc.
"The positivity rate has doubled in the past week. In some cities, it has crossed 10pc. So follow precautionary measures, stay at home when possible, use face masks, maintain a distance of six feet from each other, refrain from visiting crowded places and regularly wash/sanitise your hands," he said.
Speaking to Dawn.com, Dr Javed Akram — a member of the federal government's Covid-19 task force — said that it was not uncommon for people to become infected with the virus after being vaccinated.
“However, it has nothing to do with the vaccination. I believe that the premier was already infected with the virus, but symptoms could not develop as the incubation period is seven to 10 days."
In response to a query about when the prime minister can take the second dose of the vaccine, he said: "PM Imran will have to wait for 12 days or until his results are negative. Then he will have to wait for another six weeks after which he should get the second shot."
The second shot of the vaccine is typically administered after three weeks.
Dr Akram said that a comprehensive mechanism of contact tracing was already in place and all pf PM Imran's contacts will be tested as per policy.
PM Imran, 68, has been holding regular and frequent meetings lately, including attending a security conference held in Islamabad that was attended by a large number of people.
He addressed the conference without wearing a mask, and attended another gathering to inaugurate a housing project for poor people in a similar fashion on Thursday. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Overseas Pakistanis Zulfiqar Bukhari was also present on the occasion.
Yesterday, the premier had visited Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where he toured Malakand University, inaugurated a new academic block and addressed a gathering of students. He had also visited the Swat Motorway, where he inaugurated the Swat Expressway Tunnels.
PM Imran was also slated to interact with the public via telephone calls on Sunday (tomorrow), in an event similar to one organised in February. However, PTI Senator Dr Faisal Javed announced that a new time and date will be announced soon.
"Due to PM Imran testing positive for Covid-19, a new date for live interaction with public will be announced soon. Lots of prayers for everyone and PM Imran."
He added that PM Imran was experiencing "mild symptoms" and will continue to work from home over video conferencing.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister Shahbaz Gill added that PM Imran's symptoms were not severe and he had a "mild cough and fever".
'This country needs you'
Soon after the news broke of his diagnosis, Twitter began flooding with a host of messages from politicians, celebrities, foreign leaders and diplomats, and citizens, wishing the prime minister a speedy recovery. Within a couple of minutes, #ImranKhan became the top trend on the social media website.
The news also caught the attention of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who sent his wishes to PM Imran for a quick recovery.
Some government ministers were also quick to dispel questions over the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccine while some urged the nation to remain vigilant in light of a third wave.
Wishing the prime minister a speedy recovery, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said: "The symptoms take a few days before manifesting. Hence it is certain that prime minister had been infected prior to vaccination. So please do vaccinate."
Gill added that the premier was tested for the coronavirus earlier today and urged the nation to refrain from linking his diagnosis with getting vaccinated.
"Immunity develops a few weeks after getting vaccinated. Be sure to vaccinate your elders and loved ones," he said.
Minister for Industries Hammad Azhar said that the vaccine develops "more than 80 per cent immunity" two weeks after the second injection.
"Further, no cabinet minister, including the prime minister, nor any of their relatives jumped the queue or violated the priority order to receive the vaccine," he said.
Information Minister Shibli Faraz said that the entire nation was praying for the prime minister's recovery.
"In light of the third Covid-19 wave, citizens should follow standard operating procedures [to stem the spread of the disease]. Additional steps need to be taken to deal with the third wave of the pandemic."
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar prayed for PM Imran's speedy recovery but also urged citizens to remain cautious in light of a third Covid spike.
"Recent spike in #Covid-19 cases and positivity rate is alarming and we all need to be extra careful and strictly follow safety protocols!!"
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi wished PM Imran a quick recovery and good health.
PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari kept his message to the prime minister simple.
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry said: "The people are Pakistan are praying for their beloved leader. May God return him to good health soon."
Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi said that the premier will recover soon and be back to work "in a flash".
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Health and Finance Minister Taimur Saleem Jhagra said: "Prayers for the speedy recovery of the Prime Minister Imran Khan. This country needs you."
Additional input from Reuters