ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has further expedited its massive awareness campaign to educate citizens on adopting precautionary measures and for proper implementation of COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to curb the disease in the country.
According to an NCOC official, such a large-scale public awareness drive was need of the time as the virus was continuing to spread fast in the country and the only way to control the disease was strictly following the SOPs.
He said the government would continue to take additional precautions of limiting public space and enforcing the SOPs to slow down the spread of disease.
He said through various means, the NCOC had continued its move to educate the people across the country, including sharing of public services messages and dissemination of all the SOPs on electronic, print, and social media.
The official said the citizens had been appealed to follow the SOPs, wear a mask, maintain six feet distance, don’t leave the house unnecessarily, and don’t go into crowds at all. He said due to the corona situation, Ramazan and Eid would be celebrated with simplicity this time.
He urged the citizens to strictly follow the COVID-19 SOPs to prevent the disease in the wake of a sudden increase in the number of infections in the country. The disease expansion had caused a burden on the country’s health system as COVID cases were jumping up for the past few weeks.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan had also engaged the armed forces to ensure following of the SOPs by the masses, while lockdowns were being imposed in areas with a very high positivity ratio.
He said the government would ensure the proper implementation of COVID-19 SOPs during the Eid holidays. The NCOC in that regard had decided to constitute monitoring teams at the federal, provincial, and district levels to ensure implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) SOPs from May 8-16, he added. He said the NCOC decided that during the period all businesses and shops would remain closed with few exceptions like food outlets, grocery stores, paramedics, petrol pumps and bakeries, etc.
He said there would be a complete ban on tourism for both locals and outsiders. All the tourist resorts, formal and informal picnic spots, public parks, shopping malls, and hotels and restaurants in or around the tourist or picnic spots would remain closed while travel nodes leading to the tourist or picnic spots both in hilly areas of Northern Areas would also be closed, however, locals especially people of Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir will be allowed to travel back home.
An official of the Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations, and Coordination said Pakistan would become largely self-sufficient in meeting its COVID-19 vaccine needs as it would begin producing the single-dose CanSino Bio vaccine locally. He said due to the agreement on technology transfer, the National Institute of Health (NIH) would be able to produce three million doses per month which would significantly reduce the country’s dependence on other countries. He said China was a strong partner and had gone out of its way in keeping up a supply chain and transferring technology to Pakistan. The government had planned to vaccinate 70 million population by the end of the year 2021, he added.
He said the population of Pakistan, which was currently eligible for vaccination is 100 million out of 220 million as the vaccines had only been approved for those above 18.
He said for the first half of the year, January to June 2021, the government had received and expected to receive 19.82 million doses. Abot 91% of these doses were purchased, which clearly showed the country was not dependent on donations.
The official said, “In totality, we have signed deals for over 30 million doses. We have already secured 30 million doses and will continue to procure more the rest of the year.” He said Pakistan was now vaccinating nearly 200,000 people daily while the target was to reach 300,000 vaccinations per day in the country.
He said the government had started vaccination for 40 years and above and in that regard, the registration was opened last week. “Our procurement is a result of proactive efforts. The government initiated the conversation with vaccine manufacturers and GAVI in July 2020 which is well before any vaccine had been fully developed and approved.” He said that the Economic Coordination Committee approved $150 million dollars for vaccine procurement on November 20, 2020, while the Cabinet confirmed this on December 1st, 2020.
He said that it is important to note that vaccines did not get approved for use until mid or late December as Pfizer approved on December 11, 2020, AstraZeneca approved on December 30, 2020, while Sinopharm was also in late-stage Phase III trials in December.
He said that the government is proud of its accomplishments especially considering the serious global supply issue when some of the richest countries like Australia and Canada had to slow down or halt their vaccine roll-out.