Pakistan steps up COVID-19 vaccine rollout with 100m target

Pakistan steps up COVID-19 vaccine rollout with 100m target
Government employees wait their turn to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Peshawar. (AP)
Short Url
Updated 13 June 2021

Pakistan steps up COVID-19 vaccine rollout with 100m target

Pakistan steps up COVID-19 vaccine rollout with 100m target
  • Health authorities budget $1.1bn for Pfizer, Sinovac and AstraZeneca jabs

LAHORE: Pakistan has received 14.5 million coronavirus vaccine doses since it began its vaccination campaign in February, and plans to buy a further 90 million doses to inoculate the adult population in the second half of the year, the country’s health ministry has said.

Announcing its 2020-21 federal budget, Pakistani Minister of Finance Shaukat Tarin said that the government has allocated $1.1 billion to buy coronavirus vaccines and plans to vaccinate 100 million people out of the country’s 216 million population by July 2022.
It has also set aside 100 billion Pakistani rupees ($641 million) to combat coronavirus in the next fiscal year.
According to data shared with Arab News by health chief Dr. Faisal Sultan, as of June 9, the country had received 14.5 million vaccine doses, of which 11.06 million had been bought from pharmaceutical companies, 2.7 million donated by China and a consignment of 1.34 million contributed by Covax, the global dose-sharing platform for poorer countries.
Last November, Pakistan’s government allocated $150 million to buy COVID-19 vaccines from international manufacturers. The fund has been used to buy 11.06 million doses as well as pay transportation costs and buy the equipment needed to administer vaccines across the country, according to Dr. Rana Muhammad Safdar, director-general of health in Islamabad.

HIGHLIGHTS

• As of June 8, about 9.9 million doses of the 14.5 million total doses received had been administered, according to data provided by the health chief.

• According to a government portal, 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 70 million adult population has been fully inoculated so far.

As of June 8, about 9.9 million doses of the 14.5 million total doses received had been administered, according to data provided by the health chief. According to a government portal, 3.6 percent of Pakistan’s 70 million adult population has been fully inoculated so far.
Of the doses administered, most people — 3,513,088 — have received a Sinovac jab, Sultan said, adding that 2,548,788 people have been given the Sinopharm vaccine.
There are 1,876 vaccination centers in the country, which the government aims to increase to 4,000.
Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, has vaccinated the highest number of eligible individuals — 320,000 — or 27 percent of the city’s adult population.
Most of those vaccinated in Pakistan have been men, data showed, with the ratio of men to women receiving vaccinations being 60:40.
The country has already placed orders for an additional 90 million doses of the vaccine, the health chief added.
He said that authorities expected to receive 34 million doses of the Sinovac vaccine later this year, including 4 million in June, and a further 5 million doses each month until December.
Pakistan is also securing 18 million doses of the China-produced CanSino vaccine, which includes delivery of 3 million doses of the drug every month from July to December.
The US Pfizer vaccine will be administered across the country as well, with 1 million arriving in July and 11 million between July and  December, totaling 12 million doses.
Separately, Pakistan will receive another 1.23 million dose delivery of the UK-produced AstraZeneca jab this month, donated through the Covax platform.
However, the government has voiced concern at people failing to show up to receive a second jab.
“About one in five people fail to have their second dose,” Sultan said.
But Safdar said that the missed appointments might be the result of a backlog in late May, and that “people are now turning up, including those who missed their dose.”


Afghan president blames ‘abrupt’ US withdrawal for worsening security

Afghan president blames ‘abrupt’ US withdrawal for worsening security
Updated 7 min 35 sec ago

Afghan president blames ‘abrupt’ US withdrawal for worsening security

Afghan president blames ‘abrupt’ US withdrawal for worsening security
  • ‘The reason for our current situation is that the decision was taken abruptly’

KABUL: Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani blamed the country’s deteriorating security Monday on Washington deciding “abruptly” to withdraw its troops.
“The reason for our current situation is that the decision was taken abruptly,” he told parliament, adding he had warned Washington the withdrawal would have “consequences.”


Troops to enforce Sydney lockdown as Brisbane extends coronavirus curbs

Troops to enforce Sydney lockdown as Brisbane extends coronavirus curbs
Updated 29 min 16 sec ago

Troops to enforce Sydney lockdown as Brisbane extends coronavirus curbs

Troops to enforce Sydney lockdown as Brisbane extends coronavirus curbs
  • New South Wales state police requested military help to enforce COVID-19 rules
  • Australia has recorded more than 34,000 cases and 925 deaths so far during the pandemic

SYDNEY: Troops hit Sydney’s streets on Monday to help enforce its prolonged lockdown, as stay-at-home orders in Australia’s third-largest city Brisbane were extended to curb a worsening outbreak.
About 300 Australian Defense Force personnel will be deployed to the country’s largest city after New South Wales state police requested military help to enforce COVID-19 rules.
Authorities have been struggling to stop the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant in Sydney — and ensure that residents follow containment rules — with more than 3,600 cases recorded since mid-June.
With thousands of close contacts of COVID cases told to test and stay at home for 14 days, police said they lacked the manpower to make sure everyone was complying.
Troops are expected to help police deliver food parcels, conduct “welfare door-knocks” and check people are complying with self-isolation orders.
“I want to stress up front again that we will be under control of the NSW police,” said Brig. Mick Garraway.
“We are not a law enforcement agency and we will do tasks that are supportive in nature.”
More than five million people in Sydney and surrounding areas are entering their sixth week of a lockdown set to run until the end of August.
Residents are only allowed to leave their homes for exercise, essential work, medical reasons, and to shop for necessities such as food.
But compliance has been patchy and police have increasingly been doling out fines to those violating the restrictions.
The defense force said the latest deployment was in addition to the 250 military personnel already working at hotels and airports in New South Wales.
In Brisbane and several surrounding regions, millions of people will remain under lockdown until Sunday after an “escalating” outbreak grew to 29 cases.
Those stay-at-home orders had been scheduled to lift on Tuesday.
“That will make it an eight-day lockdown. And we desperately hope that that will be sufficient for our contact tracers to get into home quarantine absolutely anyone who could have been exposed to the Delta strain,” acting Queensland state premier Steven Miles said.
The outbreak was linked to a Brisbane school student, with pupils and teachers at several schools subsequently placed into isolation.
Defense Minister Peter Dutton’s sons attend one of the schools hit, so he is among those being forced to quarantine at home for 14 days.
“Having had COVID and being fully vaccinated, I have also tested negative this morning,” he said in a statement.
With about 15 percent of Australia’s 25 million people fully vaccinated, authorities are still relying on lockdowns to slow the spread of the virus.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has outlined a long road out of restrictions — setting a target of 80 percent of the eligible population to be fully vaccinated before borders are reopened and lockdowns eliminated.
Australia has recorded more than 34,000 cases and 925 deaths so far during the pandemic.


Philippine national capital region to implement longer curfew hours as COVID-19 precaution

Philippine national capital region to implement longer curfew hours as COVID-19 precaution
Updated 02 August 2021

Philippine national capital region to implement longer curfew hours as COVID-19 precaution

Philippine national capital region to implement longer curfew hours as COVID-19 precaution
  • Metro Manila is currently under general community quarantine with ‘heightened and additional’ restrictions but will shift to a stricter one on Friday

DUBAI: The Philippine national capital region will implement longer curfew hours when it shifts to an enhanced community quarantine on Friday, as a precaution to rising infections of the Delta variant of the coronavirus.
Movement limits in Metro Manila would be in place between 8 p.m. to 4 a.m., from the current curfew hours of 12 a.m. to 4 a.m., after a unanimous decision from mayors, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairperson Benhur Abalos said in a press briefing on Monday.
Metro Manila is currently under general community quarantine with ‘heightened and additional’ restrictions but will shift to ECQ, the strictest status, from Aug. 6 to Aug. 20 due to the threat of rising COVID-19 cases fueled by the Delta variant.
The shift to the strictest quarantine mode means indoor and al fresco dining would be disallowed and businesses and costumers can only have take-out and delivery services.
Indoor sports venues and tourist attraction would be closed, but outdoor tourist spots, as defined by the Department of Tourism, may continue to operate, but at a 30 percent capacity.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. earlier said the two-week lockdown may be sufficient to reduce the COVID-19 caseload in Metro Manila.
Metro Manila residents such as Emmanuel S. Geslani says they are comfortable with the impending lockdown, and are preparing for it by stocking up on medicines and food.
“The Delta variant is really worrying because we do not know who (among those in public) have it,” Geslani told Arab News.
“So it is better [to implement the lockdown] as a precaution against it.”
Jaime Mendoza, a government nurse, meanwhile told Arab News that coronavirus transmission could be controlled only if there would be strict monitoring in the porous borders between cities.
“There should also be strict compliance among the residents, whose livelihood have been affected by the pandemic.”
Infectious disease expert Dr. Edsel Maurice Salvana, said in a social media post that “the lockdown was preemptive response to Delta and is premised on an accelerated vaccination program to get as many people vaccinated as possible.”
“We recommended putting many areas in the country under ECQ when Delta started showing up in July, areas that were already for escalation anyway because of increasing HCUR and other parameters,” according to Salvana, who is among selected experts working with government to address the coronavirus pandemic.
“The biggest objective of this impending ECQ is to vaccinate as many people as possible in NCR. We are only tempering the anticipated increase in Delta to protect as many people as possible.”


Seoul says no decision on joint US military drills, but exercises should not create North Korea tension

Seoul says no decision on joint US military drills, but exercises should not create North Korea tension
Updated 02 August 2021

Seoul says no decision on joint US military drills, but exercises should not create North Korea tension

Seoul says no decision on joint US military drills, but exercises should not create North Korea tension
  • South Korea and the United States regularly stage military exercises, mainly in the spring and summer
  • The exercises have been scaled back in recent years to facilitate talks between North Korea and the US

SEOUL: South Korea said on Monday no decision has been made on its joint military exercises with the United States but they should not create tension, after North Korea warned the South against holding the exercises amid signs of a thaw in relations.
South Korea and the United States regularly stage military exercises, mainly in the spring and summer, but North Korea has long responded with scathing criticism, calling them a rehearsal for war.
Kim Yo Jong, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and a senior official of the ruling Workers’ Party, warned the South on Sunday that holding the drills would undercut efforts to rebuild relations.
Her warning came days after the two Koreas restored hotlines that Pyongyang severed a year ago, as Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in are seeking to repair strained ties and resume summits.
Seoul’s defense ministry said on Monday that Seoul and Washington were in talks over the drills but no decision has been made.
“We have nothing to comment on her statement, but regarding the exercises, the timing and method were not finalized,” ministry spokesman Boo Seung-chan told a briefing.
The allies will decide after considering COVID-19, joint defense posture, planned transfer of wartime operational control, and the issue of “supporting diplomatic efforts for establishing lasting peace on the Korean peninsula,” Boo added.
Lee Jong-joo, spokeswoman of the Unification Ministry, which handles inter-Korean affairs, said the exercises should not be a “source of military tension in any case,” without elaborating.
The exercises have been scaled back in recent years to facilitate talks between North Korea and the administration of former US President Donald Trump aimed at dismantling Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs in return for US sanctions relief.
But the negotiations stalled following a failed second summit in 2019 between Kim and Trump.
The coronavirus pandemic also had an impact on the drills, with the allies focusing instead on computerised simulations and minimizing live field training, without mobilizing US-based troops.
A high-level Unification Ministry official said on Friday that the exercises should be postponed to help restart nuclear talks, but Lee declined to comment when asked if the ministry plans to make a formal recommendation.
Lee said the South last week proposed setting up a video conference system to expedite inter-Korean dialogue and approved plans by two civilian relief groups to send humanitarian aid to the North.


ASEAN diplomats discussing crisis envoy, aid to Myanmar

ASEAN diplomats discussing crisis envoy, aid to Myanmar
Updated 02 August 2021

ASEAN diplomats discussing crisis envoy, aid to Myanmar

ASEAN diplomats discussing crisis envoy, aid to Myanmar
  • The 10-nation bloc has been under increasing international pressure to act on the troubles unfolding in Myanmar

MANILA: Southeast Asia’s top diplomats were meeting Monday to appoint a special envoy to help deal with the political crisis and violence gripping Myanmar and finalize an emergency plan to help control a coronavirus outbreak that many fear is spiraling out of control in the military-ruled nation.
The foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations were also expected to announce after their video meeting some progress in four years of painstakingly slow negotiations with China to craft a nonaggression pact aimed at preventing conflict in the disputed South China Sea.
The 10-nation bloc, frequently dismissed by critics as an ineffective talk shop, has been under increasing international pressure to act on the troubles unfolding in Myanmar, an ASEAN member where the military in February toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The grouping, however, is hamstrung by its policy of noninterference in the domestic affairs of member nations as well as its requirement to reach a consensus among members.
In Monday’s online meeting the ministers were to decide who among at least three nominees from Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia should be designated as the bloc’s special envoy to try to broker a settlement between the country’s ruling generals and rival parties led by Suu Kyi, a Southeast Asian diplomat told the Associated Press.
Myanmar prefers the candidate from Thailand, former Thai ambassador to Yangon Virasakdi Futrakul, but it remains uncertain when its military leaders would decide to accept the envoy and if access to Suu Kyi, who has been detained with other political leaders and put on trial for a slew of charges, would be granted, said the diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of lack of authority to discuss the issue publicly.
More than 900 people have been killed by Myanmar authorities since the February takeover, according to a tally kept by the independent Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. Casualties are also rising among the military and police as armed resistance grows in both urban and rural areas.
ASEAN leaders met in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta in April and called for an end to the violence and the start of a dialogue among contending parties to be mediated by an ASEAN envoy.
On Sunday, Myanmar’s military leader Min Aung Hlaing repeated his pledge to hold fresh elections in two years and cooperate with ASEAN on finding a political solution. He said without elaborating that Myanmar “is ready to work on ASEAN cooperation within the ASEAN framework, including the dialogue with the ASEAN special envoy in Myanmar.”
Myanmar’s troubles have deepened with its worst surge of the pandemic, which has overwhelmed its crippled health care system. Limits on oxygen sales have led to widespread allegations that the military is directing supplies to government supporters and military-run hospitals.
In Monday’s meeting, the ASEAN ministers were to looking to finalize a plan to bring in medicine and medical equipment to Myanmar through the regional bloc’s disaster-response center with the military leaders’ approval.
Greg Poling, an analyst on Southeast Asia for the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said it’s critical for ASEAN to gain humanitarian access in Myanmar but added that the aid would not automatically mean the military leaders would accede to the bloc’s political demands.
“ASEAN has no leverage with the junta,” Poling said.
In addition to Myanmar, the other ASEAN members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The ministerial meetings this week include the ASEAN Regional Forum, a security conference where North Korea attends along with the United States, China, Russia, Japan and South Korea.