• Half of Islamabad residents and over 25pc population of Karachi, several other cities vaccinated
• Active cases surge past 75,000
• Covid-19 SOPs updated for inbound air travellers
• UAE lifts ban on transit flights from Pakistan, India

ISLAMABAD/RAWALPINDI: Pakistan has finally achieved the milestone of one million shots a day as the country ramped up vaccination efforts in its struggle to tackle the resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Tuesday said half of the population of Islamabad and more than one fourth of Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, Faisalabad, Hyderabad, Rawalpindi and a few other cities have been vaccinated.

So far, 31,929,581 doses have been administered across the country, while 1,072,342 of them were administered in just one day, according to the NCOC.

However, active cases continued to increase as they surpassed the figure of 75,000 and number of hospitalised patients also surged to 3,838, while 67 more deaths were reported from across the country in the past one day.

“Islamabad has become the first city in Pak with a population of 1 million or more to get 50pc of its eligible population vaccinated with at least one dose. Peshawar and Pindi 35pc, Faisalabad 28pc, Lahore/Gujranwala /Sialkot/Sargodha 27pc, Karachi 26pc, Hyderabad 25pc,” tweeted Minister for Planning, Develop­ment and Special Initiatives Asad Umar. He said over 25pc population had been vaccinated in 10 cities and congratulated all those involved in the exercise.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services expressed the hope that the positivity rate and number of active cases would decrease in coming days. “We have already imposed some of the restrictions to curtail the virus. The incubation period of the virus is around one week so we may observe cases till end of the week and then cases will start decreasing,” he believed.

According to the NCOC data, 3,582 more people tested positive for coronavirus, with positivity rate at 7.19 per cent. The latest figures showed that most of the beds with oxygen supplies in Karachi as well as in Abbottabad were in use of Covid patients.

Recently, the Sindh government has imposed a nine-day lockdown. The federal government later also restored curbs on several cities to contain the virus.

CAA updates SOPs for air travel

In a related move, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has made it mandatory for all international inbound passengers, aged six years and above, to possess a valid negative PCR test result conducted within72 hours before travelling to Pakistan.

Also, all international inbound passengers, aged six and above, will undergo rapid antigen testing upon arrival in Pakistan according to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) updated by the PCAA.

Among the positive cases, those above 12 years of age will be quarantined at a designated facility as per procedure already defined, while those aged between 6 and 12 will be home quarantined under the supervision of concerned civil administration and health authorities.

According to the PCAA notification, considering the volatile nature of the Covid-19 situation, any or all arriving passengers may also be subjected to additional restrictions as mandated by the health authorities upon arrival in Pakistan.

All the airline operators have been directed to ensure strict compliance to the Covid-19 SOPs for inbound passengers, chartered and private aircraft which stand amended to the above extent only with effect from August 9.

Earlier, the PCAA in the wake of government directives had made Covid-19 vaccination mandatory only for domestic air travellers from August 1.

Meanwhile, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) and Habib Bank Limited (HBL) signed an agreement to allow debit and credit card holders of the bank to have exclusive discounts on their domestic and international travel via PIA, according to a press release issued by PIA spokesman on Tuesday.

UAE to lift ban on transit flights

The United Arab Emirates will on Thursday lift a ban on transit flights including from India and Pakistan, the National Emergency and Crisis Management Authority (NCEMA) of the UAE said on Tuesday, adds Reuters.

India and Pakistan are important markets for Emirates, Etihad Airways and other UAE carriers flydubai and Air Arabia. The Gulf state, a major international travel hub, had banned passengers from many South Asian and African states travelling through its airports this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

NCEMA said on Twitter that passengers travelling from countries where flights had been banned would be able to transit through its airports from August 5 as long as they present a negative PCR coronavirus test taken 72 hours prior to departure.

Final destination approval would also have to be provided, the authority said, adding that UAE departure airports would arrange separate lounges for transiting passengers.

The transit ban had also included Nepal, Sri Lanka, Uganda and Nigeria.

The announcement also eased an entry ban on residents returning from countries where flights had been suspended. NCEMA said a ban on entry to the UAE for passengers from these countries would also be lifted for those with valid residencies and who are certified by Emirati authorities as fully vaccinated.

However, they would need to apply for online entry permits prior to travelling and would need to present a negative PCR test taken 48 hours prior to departure.

Those working in the medical, educational or government sectors in the Gulf Arab state as well as those studying or completing medical treatment in the UAE would be exempt from the vaccination requirement as would humanitarian cases.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2021

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