In a major boost to the country’s vaccine procurement efforts, Cuba on Tuesday offered to establish a centre for vaccine production in Pakistan which could be used for both domestic use as well as exports, the science and technology ministry said in a statement.
The announcement comes, as Pakistan passed a major milestone in its nationwide vaccination campaign by administering more 500,000 jabs, including over 390,000 first shots, while the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) takes further steps to ward off a looming fourth wave of coronavirus.
The ministry statement said that Cuban Ambassador Zener Javier Caro Gonzalez floated the proposal during a meeting with Science and Technology Minister Shibli Faraz. Cuba has recently approved its home-grown Abdala vaccine for emergency use.
Cuba’s health regulator, the Autoridad Reguladora de Medicamentos (CECMED), gave the go-ahead on Friday after Abdala's makers last month announced that the vaccine was more than 92% effective at preventing Covid-19 disease after three doses.
Pakistan has relied mainly on China for the bulk supply of vaccines, mainly Sinopharm, CanSinoBio and Sinovac jabs. The country has also received Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines under the international COVAX arrangements.
The country started the vaccination campaign in February. In recent weeks, the pace of the campaign has been accelerated because the presence of Indian variant, Delta, had stoked fears of a fourth wave of the disease, which, according to experts, could prove more dangerous than the previous ones.
So far, more than 20 million vaccine doses have been administered across the country, including more than 4 million doses of the vaccine administered to the people over the age of 18 during this month alone, according to the NCOC.
On Tuesday, Planning Minister Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC—the nerve centre of the government’s anti-pandemic strategy—said in tweet that 525,000 vaccine doses were administered on Monday, which were the highest ever in a single day.
“For the first time we crossed half a million doses of vaccination yesterday. 5 lakh 25 thousand doses were administered yesterday. Highest ever first dose was also achieved yesterday with 3 lakh 90 thousand first doses administered. The pace will increase further inshallah,” he wrote.
The NCOC said separately that the forum reviewed the pandemic situation and decided to seek the help of the law-enforcement agencies, including the Army, for the implementation of coronavirus-induced standard operating procedures (SOPs).
The meeting approved measures to airlift thousands of Pakistanis stranded abroad. In this regard, the forum decided to increase international flight operations to 50% from July 15. The decision would allow around 2,500 to 3,000 people to return to the country every day.
The forum said that strict checks had been placed on all routes to tourist destinations during the Eid holidays. In light of the NCOC guidelines, vaccination had become a prerequisite for all tourists. The same condition would apply to all air passengers from August 1.
The forum said that smart lockdowns were being implemented in various areas with to curb the spread of epidemic, as the cases of delta variant were on the rise. On Monday, Rawalpindi administration imposed smart lockdowns, while Sindh reported 35 cases of Delta variant since June.
In the daily update, the NCOC reported 1,590 new coronavirus cases in the 24 hours, taking the country's Covid-19 tally to 976, 867. It added that 732 patients recovered from the virus, taking the total recoveries to 914,605, depicting a 97.59% recovery ratio.
The nationwide death toll climbed to 22,618 after 21 more people succumbed to the deadly disease. According to the NCOC, total active Covid-19 cases across the country topped 39,000, including 2,181 patients in critical condition.
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