Health Minister Qadir Patel on Wednesday announced the government will begin offering COVID vaccinations for children aged 5-11 “within a month or two,” as he urged the public to once again adopt measures to restrict the spread of the pandemic.
Addressing a press conference after a meeting to review the prevailing COVID situation, he noted that vaccines for children were only available through Pfizer and the government had initiated dialogue with the company to secure the necessary inoculations. “Hopefully, by August or September, we will receive 6.8 million doses from Pfizer, which is a step forward,” he said.
Stressing that while the overall COVID situation had improved in recent months, he warned that the pandemic was not yet over. “The situation is not worrisome yet,” he said of the recent surge in new infections. However, he emphasized, this was the time to adopt precautionary measures that would prevent a new wave of the coronavirus.
In this regard, he said, the government was proposing three standard operating procedures (SOPs): mandatory masks in all closed spaces, including planes, trains, and other public transport; social distancing; and proper sanitization. He said this was especially essential for the upcoming Eidul Azha and Muharram processions, when large public gatherings occur. “We are considering strategies for these occasions as well,” he said.
On the high positivity being reported from some cities, including Karachi, he said this could be linked to the drastic reduction in testing in recent months, which had meant only people with symptoms were being tested. To get a more accurate picture of the current spread, he added, the government had decided to increase mass testing nationwide.
Earlier, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired a meeting on the COVID situation and directed authorities concerned to implement SOPs in all crowded areas. Stressing on the importance of vaccinations, booster shots, mask compliance and social distancing, he instructed provincial governments to ensure the measures were implemented in cattle markets, Eidul Azha gatherings and weddings.
“We can only protect our loved ones from COVID by following these measures,” he said.
The meeting was updated on the prevailing spread of COVID globally and nationally, noting that a new sub-variant of the Omicron variant was responsible for the recent surge in Pakistan.