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Govt in talks with Chinese firm to procure COVID-19 vaccine: Asad Umar

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar has said the government is promptly taking decisions to procure the anti-Covid vaccine and has started talks with a Chinese company.

Addressing a press conference, the minister the completion of the procurement process of COVID-19 vaccines will take some time. He said the vaccine will initially be administered to the healthcare staff followed by other people.

Asad Umar, who heads the head of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), said the government’s timely decisions and the responsibility demonstrated by the masses have greatly contributed to check the spread of the contagion in the country. 

He appealed the people to continue to follow the precautionary measures to avoid the devastation caused by the virus in the US and other western countries. He said the government opted for a smart lockdown policy in the wake of first wave of COVID-19 to protect the lives and livelihoods. He said the complete lockdown policy adopted by some of the regional countries added to their economies woes.

He said the government’s handling of Covid-19was appreciated by several world institutions including the World Health Organization, World Economic Forum and Bill Gates. He said that the federal government had been recommended to implement strict curbs amid the recent situation of the pandemic instead of imposing smart lockdown.

A survey conducted by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) revealed that around 55.5 million workforce exists in the country including women. During the countrywide lockdown, he said business activities were halted and more than 20 million people lost their livelihood.

He said the government will have to make decisions in view of health and employment on the directives of the prime minister. The pilot project, testing and quarantine system had been initiated on April 10 which was made fully operational from April 24.

The curbs had been gradually lifted following the decisions taken within a few of weeks besides reopening of business sectors of the country. The country’s workforce had returned to their employment in October while the construction sector witnessed an uptick despite the pandemic.

He said the federal government had decided to impose lockdown in coronavirus hotspot areas as a large number of COVID-19 patients were heading towards hospitals from the first week of December. He appealed to keep following standard operating procedures (SOPs) against novel coronavirus as the arrival of vaccines will take some time.