KARACHI: Sindh is faring better than Punjab in terms of the coronavirus infection rate as there’s much more travelling, as well as the UK variant of COVID-19 in the latter, the provincial health minister, Dr Azra Pechuho, said Tuesday.
Addressing a press briefing here in Karachi, Dr Pechuho spoke of the worrisome spread of the deadly coronavirus, especially in other provinces. She said it was “necessary” for the PPP to postpone its rally in Punjab — of which the capital, Lahore, has a 23.4% positivity rate, as per the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) data — and the Sehwan Sharif Mela.
The provincial minister explained that the two events “would [have had] an influx of people travelling to attend them and due to the upward trend in COVID-19 positivity cases, this would have only made matters worse in terms of rising infection rates”.
She remarked that the coronavirus positivity rate was higher in other provinces since there was a high frequency of travel and the UK variant of COVID-19 — though not more dangerous but spreads much faster — had reached Punjab.
“Within one week there have been over 27,000 positive cases in Lahore, over 9,000 in KP, almost 8,000 in Islamabad, and 3,307 in Sindh. Out of these, there have been 142 deaths in KP, 434 in Punjab, and 30 in Sindh,” she said.
Screening of travellers
The Sindh Health Department, she announced, has begun screening all the travellers coming in via buses and trains to monitor the coronavirus situation and prepare for it appropriately.
“Should a traveller have a fever they will get a COVID-19 test done, their districts will be notified and the screened person will be asked to isolate at home for two weeks and their family will be asked to do the same,” she said.
Dr Pechuho also appealed to the citizens of Sindh to be mindful of the coronavirus-related standard operating procedures (SOPs) as the COVID-19 infection rate was only increasing and “till over 70% of the country’s population does not get vaccinated”.
Sindh to buy COVID jabs directly
With regard to the coronavirus vaccine, she said people over 50 years of age were now allowed to get registered to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The government of Sindh also allotted Rs500 million to directly buy the coronavirus vaccine from China, she said, adding that the province would receive 8,000-10,000 of the total 60,000 doses of CanSino Biologics’ single-dose jab that Pakistan received earlier from China.
In light of the Centre permitting the provinces to independently buy the drug and the vaccine being available in the market, “Sindh will be finding out the purchasing price for this vaccine in order to acquire it”, she said.
“Sindh has set aside Rs500 million for the procurement of this vaccine and will be using these to directly purchase from the Chinese government,” she added.
Dr Pechuho said the Sindh government “wishes for the largest number of people to be vaccinated against this virus; however, the procurement of the vaccine has been a slow process”.
“175 adult vaccination centers in all of Sindh, out of which Karachi has 29, Hyderabad has around 8, and around 5 to 6 in other districts,” she added.
Status of vaccination
In addition, the health minister noted that the PTI government initially sent a total of 362,000 doses for 181,000 people of which 163,808 were utilised, including for the senior citizens, who have only received the first jab as the second one is administered three weeks afterwards.
The Sindh health minister noted that 59,586 second doses were already administered — primarily to healthcare workers — “as it is not yet time for senior citizens to receive the second dose”.
The province has 52,111 doses remaining, while China’s state-owned National Pharmaceutical Group Corporation — or Sinopharm — sent another 20,000.
“One million doses reached the federal government recently and out of this they are sending 200,000 to Sindh,” the provincial minister explained.