Punjab to block SIM cards of unvaccinated

Provincial health minister says vaccine campaign being taken to people’s doorsteps

RAMEEZ KHAN June 11, 2021


The Punjab government decided on Thursday to propose to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) to block the subscriber identity module (SIM) cards of the people who refuse to get coronavirus vaccine, as the country ramped up its inoculation drive to beat the global pandemic.

Among a raft a proposals to push people to get vaccinated at the earliest, according provincial Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid, the authorities might ban entry of an unvaccinated individual to parks, restaurants and malls.

The decisions were taken during a meeting chaired by Dr Rashid and attended by high-ranking officials. Dr Rashid told The Express Tribune they would propose these measures to the NCOC, which supervised the national effort against the pandemic, for approval before their implementation.

She confirmed that the meeting decided to propose to the NCOC to block SIM cards of individuals, who did not get themselves vaccinated “beyond a certain time”, adding that the NCOC would also be proposed other measures to push the people to get themselves vaccinated at the earliest.

Read more: 4.5m people vaccinated in Punjab

Since the government has been working in liaison with the NCOC, therefore, for this decision, the government will also want their [NCOC] approval, first, the health minister said. “Once approved from the NCOC, we would devise a timeline for the execution,” she added.

She added that they would also propose banning entry of unvaccinated individuals to parks, restaurants and malls in later stages. “We are doing all we could to compel people to get vaccinated. We are taking vaccination facilities to their doorsteps”, she said.

“The government cannot allow individuals, who do not want to get vaccinated, to risk lives of those who are already vaccinated. People who have got vaccine jabs have the right to return to their normal lives,” she said, stressing that any loose end in this fight might lead to a resurge.

Responding to a question, Dr Rashid said that the decision about the SIM card proposal had been taken by a subcommittee formed on the orders of the provincial cabinet and was co-chaired by two cabinet members, therefore, these measures did not require approval of the cabinet.

The decisions came a day after the NCOC had announced relaxations in several Covid-induced restrictions amid declining trend in the third wave of coronavirus. The forum also announced the opening up of the walk-in vaccination facility to all citizens above 18, starting Friday (today).

The forum said that the mass vaccination campaign will continue under a three-pronged strategy -- voluntary vaccinations by all citizens, obligatory vaccinations for public and private sector employees by June 30 and incentivised vaccination campaign.

Meanwhile, the national tally of active Covid-19 cases reduced further on Thursday to 44,236 as 1,303 people tested positive for the virus while 1,978 recovered from the infectious disease during the last 24 hours, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) said.

The NCOC, which spearheads the national effort to contain the spread of the deadly contagion, also said that 76 patients, of them 67 in hospitals, including 41 on ventilators, died during the past 24 hours, raising the nationwide death toll to 21,529. Most of the deaths occurred in Punjab, followed by Sindh.

According to the NCOC daily update of the disease, there were 2,967 Covid-infected patients under treatment in critical care in various Covid dedicated healthcare facilities in the past 24 hours. It added that 361 patients remained on ventilators.

As of Thursday, the NCOC said, national Covid positivity rate during the past 24 hours was 3.1%. Since the pandemic outbreak, the NCOC said, 937,434 cases were detected. Among them, it added, 871,669 people have recovered from the disease, which showed more than 90% recovery ratio.