Health minister notes ‘considerable decrease’ in COVID-19 cases in the province over the past two weeks
The Punjab Health Department aims to vaccinate 30-40 percent of the province’s population against the coronavirus by year’s end, Health Minister Dr. Yasmin Rashid announced on Sunday.
Addressing a press conference on the state of COVID spread in Lahore, she said the province was administering doses of the vaccine to over 150,000 people daily. In June, she said, authorities hope to achieve a daily average of 250,000-300,000 doses administered, with a further boost to 400,000 doses administered daily in July.
Thus far, she said, Punjab has administered doses of various vaccines to around 3,500,000 people. It should be clarified that most vaccines require two doses for any individual to be considered fully vaccinated; it is unclear how many residents of Punjab have been fully vaccinated.
“Hopefully we will achieve the target set by the NCOC [National Command and Operation Center] very soon,” said Dr. Rashid. “Misconceptions and rumors are being spread about the vaccine,” she said, and urged the public to only pay heed to directives issued by government authorities.
Referring to the Pfizer vaccine, 100,000 doses of which were recently provided to Pakistan through the COVAX regime, the health minister said the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan had initiated the registration process for its use. She said the government was expediting vaccinations of medical students of private and government institutions.
Of the CanSino vaccine, Dr. Rashid said its packaging and formulation from concentrate was ongoing through the National Institute of Health, adding that the country should be able to meet its requirements independently within three months.
The health minister approvingly noted that there had been a “considerable decrease” in COVID-19 cases in Punjab due to the strict enforcement of SOPs and the ongoing mass vaccination drive. “Imposing lockdown before and during Eid helped considerably,” she added.
She said that data from the last three days showed that the positivity ratio had remained below 8 percent in most districts of the province. “The positivity ratio in Lahore is 1.5 percent. There has been a considerable decrease in corona cases in Punjab. There was a steep rise in the number of cases last month in Gujranwala, but currently only 20 percent of the reserved resources are under use of COVID-19 patients,” she said, adding that the number of recovered patients was slowly rising above the number of new admissions.
Separately, the NCOC on Sunday released details of Pakistan’s first confirmed case of the deadly Indian variant of the coronavirus. According to a statement, the infected individual is a Pakistani citizen who tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival to Pakistan from a Gulf country. It said the 39-year-old was a resident of Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
“The case was picked through a screening system put in place for international arrivals when he landed on May 8 and showed a positive rapid test conducted at the airport,” it said, adding the traveler had been placed under mandatory quarantine immediately. It stressed that the virus had been found in any family or contacts of the infected individual, adding that further tracing was being conducted for any people who might have been exposed during his travel.
The NCOC clarified that the Ministry of National Health Services had reiterated to airlines to strictly enforce SOPs for travelers, including mandatory test reports from authentic labs from the country of origin.