LAHORE: Scores of people on Saturday broke open the main gate of Expo Centre and entered it’s premises after the administration stopped inoculation due to shortage of vaccine and made them wait outside the building for hours in the scorching heat.
The charged people also broke the windowpanes of the Expo hall, to vent their anger for being denied vaccination and the government mismanagement resulting in vaccine shortage.
The protesters alleged that the government response towards the Covid global emergency and public outcry over vaccine shortage was pathetic.
They were of the view that despite the reports of vaccine shortage a couple of weeks back the provincial as well as federal governments turned a deaf ear to the issue as nothing was done to ensure uninterrupted supply to avoid a crisis which has now deepened further.
They said because of the negligence of the authorities concerned, almost all the centres in Punjab, particularly in Lahore, had run out of the Covid vaccine and citizens had to pay the price.
Around three-hour-long protest and unrest at the Expo Centre prompted the health department to immediately call police to control the situation and dispatch teams in a bid to make available the vaccine stock there.
There were reports that the inoculation resumed at the centre by the evening.
The health authorities, however, blamed Saturday’s incident on a physical clash between two groups of people visiting the centre to get vaccinated. The officials claimed that a group tried to force entry into the Expo Centre, violating the standard operating procedures (SOPs), which irritated the other group, leading to a physical clash.
However, eyewitnesses said some health officials tried to mislead the public as well as the government functionaries by fabricating a false story of the clash in order to cover up their negligence.
They said the citizens started visiting the centre early on Saturday to avoid rush, finding the main gate of the facility locked. They kept waiting for about two hours in the hot weather were later disallowed entry. On being questioned, the security guards misbehaved with them, they added. The witnesses said the crowd kept increasing and finally the visitors got the wind that the center was closed down because of vaccine shortage.
What enraged the waiting crowd most were unconfirmed reports that “some selected people” were being inoculated inside the centre, they said, adding that on learning this, those waiting outside in the scorching heat lost temper and forced their entry into the premises by breaking open the main gate.
Meanwhile, an official of the health department confirmed to Dawn that all the vaccination centres in Punjab, except the three in Lahore, were lying closed for the last three days or so due to the vaccine shortage.
He said that the Punjab government was waiting for the arrival of fresh consignment of the vaccine which was expected to reach here from China in Islamabad today (on Sunday).
He said the inoculation in the major cities of the province had come to a halt due to a shortage of vaccines as supplies from the federal government had been delayed for unknown reasons.
According to him, because of the shortage, only those eligible for the second dose were being inoculated at the functional centres.
Meanwhile, the Covid death toll reached 10,615 after 12 more patients succumbed to the virus during the last 24 hours in Punjab.
Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2021