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Updated 03 Oct, 2021 08:50am

Over 60m people now recipient of one dose: minister

• NDMA procures 7m vaccines from China, Russia • Asad says 30m people to be fully vaccinated in a day • NCOC advises pilgrims from Iraq to quarantine • 46 lose battle against virus, over 1,600 get infected

ISLAMABAD: While Covid-19 positivity ratio, which was in double figures a couple of months ago, has declined to 3.21 per cent, Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Saturday announced that the number of people who had received at least one dose of a vaccine had surpassed the figure of 60 million.

On the other hand, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has included pilgrims returning from Iraq in the most risky group as they can become a factor in the spread of the virus.

In another development, seven million doses of Chinese and Russian vaccines have arrived in Islamabad.

Asad Umar, who also heads the NCOC, said in a tweet that while 60m people had received at least one shot, the number of fully vaccinated citizens would reach 30m in a day.

He hoped that the target of vaccinating 70m people would be achieved by the end of December, advising citizens to go for inoculation at the earliest.

Meanwhile, the NCOC has issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) for pilgrims coming from Iraq, asking them to stay in quarantine for one day. However Majlis Wahdat-i-Muslimeen Pakistan refused to accept the decision and demanded that those who test negative should not be forced to stay in quarantine.

Iraq has been placed in Category C, which includes the regions with the most Covid-19 cases. People cannot visit such countries without getting special permission and following the necessary health guidelines. However, because of Arbaeen (Chehlum) of Imam Husain, special permission was granted to people to travel to Iraq.

An official of the Ministry of National Health Services (NHS), requesting anonymity, said in October last year that Pakistan had introduced three categories to deal with Covid-19.

People travelling from countries in Category A were exempted from the mandatory Covid-19 test, those coming from Category B nations required a mandatory negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of the travel date while people arriving from regions in Category C were restricted and could only be allowed as per the guidelines of the NCOC.

“On the occasion of Chehlum, people from across the globe visit Iraq and therefore chances of virus transmission increases. For this reason, we have included pilgrims in the most risky group,” the official said, adding that there were no direct flights to Pakistan from countries placed in Category C.

“We have decided to put pilgrims in quarantine for just one day so that they and their families are protected from the virus. We hope the pilgrims will cooperate with the administration,” he added.

The ministry official said in 2020, Pakistan had closed its borders and strictly monitored all inbound passengers. “However, pilgrims, who were travelling from Iran, became the main source of the spread of the virus as they refused to quarantine. Later we tried our best to get the Raiwind Tableeghi Ijtema cancelled but again no one listened to us; as a result, coronavirus got out of control,” he said.

The NCOC data revealed that 46 people died of Covid-19 and 1,664 new cases of infection surfaced in the last 24 hours.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Saturday said consignments of 3m doses each of Sinovac and Sinopharm and 1m doses of Sputnik-V vaccines had arrived in Pakistan.

The vaccines were procured by the NDMA and were handed over to the NHS ministry.

The data further showed that overall 84,039,376 doses had so far been administered across the country.

Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2021

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