Federal Health Minister Qadir Patel on Wednesday announced that the government will begin vaccinating children between the ages of five and 11 against coronavirus "within a month or two" as he called for a return to Covid precautionary measures.
At a media briefing of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in Islamabad today, he said vaccines for children in the 5-11 year age bracket were only available with Pfizer.
"We have engaged in a dialogue with them. Hopefully, by August or September, we will receive 6.8 million doses from Pfizer which is a step forward," he said.
Covid cases in Pakistan, the minister noted, had increased in the last few days. "The situation is not worrisome [yet] but it requires the public to be cautious."
For this purpose, the government is proposing three standard operating procedures (SOPs) that need to be "followed religiously", he said. "We have made masks mandatory in all closed gatherings, airlines, railways and public transport. Social distancing and proper sanitisation are also very important."
Patel cautioned that Eidul Azha and Muharram were coming up during which large public gatherings are typically held. "We are mulling over strategies for these occasions as well, as the threat of coronavirus cases rising persists during these months,” he said.
He added that the government has also decided to increase mass testing across the country on the orders of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for which instructions had been sent to the health secretaries of all four provinces.
PM chairs meeting on Covid
Patel's presser followed a meeting PM Shehbaz chaired on Covid today. In the meeting, he stressed on implementation of SOPs in crowded areas.
It was attended by federal ministers Abdul Qadir Patel, Rana Sanaullah, Sherry Rehman, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), information secretary, secretary of the National Health Services and other senior officers. The chief secretaries of all the four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan attended it via video link.
During the meeting, the prime minister highlighted the importance of vaccination, booster doses, wearing of masks and social distancing. He instructed the provinces to ensure that the measures were being implemented in cattle markets, Eidul Azha gatherings and weddings.
"We can only protect our loved ones from Covid by following these measures," he said.
Separately, the meeting was briefed in detail on the current situation of Covid on global and national levels. It was informed that there was an overall declining trend in the number of cases worldwide.
However, it noted that the new Omicron variant had recently led to a surge in Covid cases in Pakistan, which on June 28 exceeded 2pc positivity ratio.
On the other hand, the hospitalisation rates in the country has been recorded lowest than all the previous waves.
The premier was also told that 93 pc of the population had received at least one dose of the vaccine. So far, the entire population of Sindh has been fully vaccinated, while the vaccination process in Punjab and other provinces were also moving towards completion.
On Wednesday, 541 new infections were recorded and one death, per the official Covid data portal. There were 100 critical cases, with 15 more during the past 24 hours.