ISLAMABAD: While 30pc of overall and 46pc of eligible population has been vaccinated against Covid-19, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Thursday decided to keep vaccination centres closed on the first two days of the next year.

“All vaccination centres across the country will remain closed on 1st and 2nd January 2022 (Saturday and Sunday) as vaccination staff remained extensively engaged in achieving national targets for the year 2021. Vaccination campaign will resume from 3rd January onwards,” the NCOC announced.

“30pc of country’s total population and 46pc of eligible population stand vaccinated! In the wake of rising threat of Omicron, please get yourself fully vaccinated and follow SOPs! Wear mask, avoid crowded places and ensure social distancing!” it tweeted.

Meanwhile, the country recorded the highest number of cases over the last almost two months and over 400 cases after a gap of around one month. The data centre showed that as many as 482 cases and three deaths were reported over the past 24 hours. Earlier over 400 cases were reported on Dec 3. More than 482 cases were reported on Nov 10 when 637 people were infected.

PMA blasts tax hike on medicines

In a related development, the Pakistan Medical Asso­ci­a­tion (PMA) expre­ssed concern over the federal government’s proposed 17 per cent GST on raw materials for pharmaceutical products.

“This imposition of 17pc GST on raw materials will cause the price hike of medicine which is already very high and out of the reach of the poor people of the country and even the middle class of our society feels burdened. This move will make it difficult for the poor people to get treatment for their sick family members. We str­o­ngly oppose this propo­sal. Unfortunately, the present government has alre­ady increased the drug prices 11 times during its tenure.

“In such conditions when there is scarcity of health facilities at public hospitals, this increase in prices of medicines will add to the misery of the people,” it stated.

PMA Secretary General Dr Qaisar Sajjad said that the association had been demanding for the last many years to increase the health budget up to the 6pc of the Gross Domestic Product so that the people could get treatment of their diseases.

“We suggest the government to make public health facilities free in 2022, so that nobody dies without treatment. According to reports published in a section of media, the government will impose 17pc GST on food items including infants’ milk in upcoming mini-budget. These food items are very important for balanced diet and increasing the price of food items will not only increase the burden of diseases, but will also increase the mal-nutrition and stunting.

“We are surprised that even knowing the fact that our children are already facing malnutrition and stunting, the government is prepared to increase the prices of essential food items.

“The PMA demands from the federal government to review its decision and withdraw the proposal of imposing 17pc GST on food items and raw materials for pharmaceutical products to stop the further increase of drug prices to ease difficulties of the poor people who are already suffering from the inflation and bad economic situation in the country,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2021

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