Pakistan

Punjab govt decides to block SIM cards of people refusing to get vaccinated

The Punjab government on Thursday decided to block SIM cards of people refusing to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, an official said.

The step was among several decisions taken by the provincial government to control the spread of Covid-19 and speed up the vaccination process, including opening walk-in vaccination for all adults from June 12.

“Final decision has been taken to block the mobile SIM cards of people not getting vaccinated,” Punjab Specialised Healthcare Department spokesman Syed Hammad Raza said.

A high-level meeting chaired by Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid also decided to set up mobile vaccination camps outside major shrines in the province, and fully open businesses  in all districts where at least 20 per cent of the population has been vaccinated.

Vaccinated people will be allowed to go to cinema halls and restaurants and marriage halls will be opened. People suffering from terminal illnesses like HIV/AIDS and cancer will now be vaccinated on priority, according to the spokesperson.

The meeting was given a briefing on the measures taken to control the spread of the virus and it appreciated the health department’s performance for the decrease in the number of infections and mortality rate.

“We have seen considerable decrease in [the] number of cases. The government is utilising all our resources for control of Covid-19 under the leadership of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar,” Rashid was quoted as saying.

She said the credit for the reduction in case numbers went to the administration, adding that as many as 677 vaccination centres were operating in the province.

After the opening of the walk-in facility for all adults, she said, people would be able to get inoculated upon showing their CNIC.

The Punjab chief secretary said that maximum possible facilities were being provided at vaccination centres. He said in districts where 20pc of the population has been vaccinated, all businesses will be opened subject to compliance with mask-wearing.

Residents of Punjab can contact the toll-free 1033 helpline for complaints or queries regarding vaccination.

The decisions come a day after the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) announced that coronavirus vaccines will be mandatory for all public- and private-sector employees, and that government employees must be fully vaccinated by June 30.

Among other drastic measures seen in the country to increase the pace of vaccinations, the Sindh government last week issued directions to stop the salaries of government employees who refuse to get themselves vaccinated from July.

Covid vaccination drive in Punjab was “dead slow”, with the provincial government vaccinating around 52,000 people daily on average against a daily target of 0.42 million adults set by the NCOC to inoculate all 67m eligible people by the end of the year.

The provincial government had started vaccination in the first week of March to achieve the target by the end of 2021.

However, till June 1, the government had vaccinated only 4.2m people out of 67m total target population in Punjab, which constituted a 6.3pc vaccination rate only, showing desperately low coverage to fight the pandemic.

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