Pakistan hopes to overcome COVID-19 vaccine shortages as more doses trickle in

Pakistan hopes to overcome COVID-19 vaccine shortages as more doses trickle in
A health worker prepares to inoculate a man with a dose of the Sinopharm Covid-19 coronavirus at a vaccination centre in Karachi on May 26, 2021. (AFP)
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Updated 21 June 2021

Pakistan hopes to overcome COVID-19 vaccine shortages as more doses trickle in

Pakistan hopes to overcome COVID-19 vaccine shortages as more doses trickle in
  • Nation of 220 million expected to receive over 6 million jabs next week to continue nationwide vaccination drive, health officials say
  • Vaccine shortage in Islamabad temporary, hopeful to overcome it in next 2-3 days, district health officer Islamabad says

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government struck an optimistic tone on Sunday, hoping to overcome a COVID-19 vaccine shortage in various parts of the country, including in the capital city, Islamabad, with the arrival of over 6 million doses of the crucial jabs.

Health Chief Dr. Faisal Sultan said that while Pakistan had one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in stock, authorities were expecting 1.55 million doses on Sunday, 2.5 million doses on Tuesday, and another 2-3 million doses between June 23 and June 30.

“Therefore, any pressure in the system and local/distribution issues will be eased by Mon/Tue,” Dr. Sultan said in a Twitter post on Saturday.

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), the federal body dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, confirmed the arrival of 1.55 million doses of China’s Sinovac vaccines on Sunday.

“This is part of planned contracted quantity purchased from China,” the NCOC said in a statement.

“China as a time-tested friend of Pakistan, has taken special measures to ensure uninterrupted supply of vaccines to Pakistan. Another consignment of 2-3 million doses of Chinese vaccines will be reaching Pakistan next week,” it added.

Pakistan has been grappling with a vaccine shortage since Monday, especially in Islamabad and the southern Sindh province, where authorities have shut down nearly 40 percent of vaccination centers due to a scarcity of the COVID-19 jabs.

“This vaccine shortage is temporary and we are hopeful to overcome it in the next two to three days,” Dr. Zaeem Zia, a district health officer in Islamabad, told Arab News on Sunday

He added that the federal government would provide more vaccines by Monday to “ease the pressure on vaccination centers, especially in rural areas of Islamabad.”

Islamabad’s administration has vaccinated 52.7 percent or 580,000 of its population since February when the nationwide vaccination drive was launched, with plans to inoculate at least 1.1 million by the year-end.

“We have been successful in flattening the virus curve in Islamabad through restrictions and vaccination,” Zia said.

“We will have sufficient vaccine supplies in the next couple of days to achieve our target,” he added.

Since February, the South Asian nation of 220 million has procured around 14.5 million jabs from various sources, including COVAX, a global vaccine-sharing facility for developing countries led by the World Health Organization.

Pakistan has allocated $1.1 billion in the fiscal year 2022 to procure coronavirus vaccines from the international market to achieve herd immunity.

The government says it’s aiming to vaccinate between 45 million and 65 million people this year, with plans to inoculate 70 million people by next year.

So far, Pakistan has administered more than 13 million doses of the vaccine.     


Pakistan, Turkey to produce TV series on famed Muslim commander Salahuddin

Pakistan, Turkey to produce TV series on famed Muslim commander Salahuddin
Updated 21 August 2021

Pakistan, Turkey to produce TV series on famed Muslim commander Salahuddin

Pakistan, Turkey to produce TV series on famed Muslim commander Salahuddin
  • Salahuddin retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders after the battle of Hattin in 1187
  • TV series will be produced by Pakistan's Ansari & Shah Films and Turkey's Akli Films

ISLAMABAD: Pakistani and Turkish producers have signed an agreement to make a TV series on the life of the famed 12th-century Muslim commander Salahuddin Al-Ayyubi, the Turkish side announced on Saturday.

The first sultan of Egypt and Syria and founder of the Ayyubid dynasty, Salahuddin (1138-1193) led the Muslim military campaign against the Crusader states in the Levant. After the battle of Hattin in 1187, he retook Jerusalem from the Crusaders who had conquered Palestine 88 years earlier.

The TV series will be produced by Pakistan's Ansari & Shah Films and Turkey's Akli Films.

"Contract signed between Akli Films and Ansari&Shah Films," Akli Films owner Emre Konuk said in a tweet. "May this international project, which will be prepared with the cooperation of Turkey and Pakistan, be beneficial to our country and our art world."

 

 

Akli Films said in a statement the three-season series will feature actors from Turkey and Pakistan, and will be shot in Turkey.


Tanzeela Qambrani becomes first from tiny African-Pakistani community to become cabinet member

Tanzeela Qambrani becomes first from tiny African-Pakistani community to become cabinet member
Updated 05 August 2021

Tanzeela Qambrani becomes first from tiny African-Pakistani community to become cabinet member

Tanzeela Qambrani becomes first from tiny African-Pakistani community to become cabinet member
  • Tanzeela Qambrani belongs to Sheedi community and joined Sindh Assembly on women's reserved seat in 2018
  • She specializes in computer sciences and will head the ministry of information technology

KARACHI: Pakistan’s southern Sindh province on Thursday appointed Tanzeela Qambrani, a female lawmaker of African descent, to its cabinet, making her the first member of the country s tiny African-Pakistani community to hold a government portfolio.

A resident of Matli in Badin district, Qambrani belongs to the Sheedi community and joined Sindh’s ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) after securing a master’s degree in computer sciences from a local university in 2010.

She was elected as a provincial legislator in Sindh on women's reserved seat in August 2018.

Qambrani on Thursday was notified as special assistant to the province’s chief minister, a post equal in status to a provincial minister. She will head the important information technology department.

“[Pakistan’s founding father] Muhammad Ali Jinnah said all citizens of this country are equal. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto gave the country a constitution, which provides everyone equal rights. My [PPP] chairman [Bilawal Bhutto Zardari] practically showed it [by appointing me to the provincial cabinet],” Qambrani told Arab News, adding that she wanted to empower Pakistani women and youth with the opportunities created by information technology.

“Information technology is my subject which is used in almost every field,” she said. “I want to use it to ensure the progress of our women and youth, including those belonging to my own community.”

While there are various accounts of the arrival of the Sheedi community in the region, it is widely believed that its members have their roots in Africa and their forefathers accompanied famous Arab military commander Muhammad bin Qasim to South Asia.

Estimates suggest that the total size of the community is about 250,000 people.


Pakistan decides to keep schools open as COVID-19 cases touch new high since April

Pakistan decides to keep schools open as COVID-19 cases touch new high since April
Updated 05 August 2021

Pakistan decides to keep schools open as COVID-19 cases touch new high since April

Pakistan decides to keep schools open as COVID-19 cases touch new high since April
  • Pakistan reported 5,661 new coronavirus cases in last 24 hours, highest single-day rise in infections since April
  • Government says its data analysis shows vaccination helpful in declining the positivity ratio of COVID-19 cases

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reported 5,661 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, a government portal showed on Thursday, the highest number of daily infections recorded since April, and a day after the federal government said it would open schools across the country, except in the southern Sindh province. 

According to the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), the government’s central body dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, of 62,462 tests conducted until Thursday, 5,661 people had tested positive for COVID-19, while the positivity rate rose to 9.06 percent.

 

 

The alarming rise in cases comes as an Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC) on Wednesday said schools would remain open in all the provinces except Sindh, Pakistan’s second populous province, whose administration said it would review the coronavirus situation on August 8 and decide on reopening schools and holding exams.

On Thursday, Pakistan also set another record: of administering the highest number of vaccinations in a day - 1.1 million - since the shots began to be rolled out in February.

 

 

The government of Pakistan also urged people on Thursday to get vaccinated, saying an analysis of cases by the NCOC across Pakistan “clearly shows that vaccination is helpful in declining the positivity ratio of Covid-19 cases.”

 

 


Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg
Updated 19 June 2021

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg

Babar Azam becomes PSL's all-time top scorer during tournament's Abu Dhabi leg
  • As the PSL's top scorer with 2,000 runs, Azam is followed by Peshawar Zalmi's Kamran Akmal with 1,763 runs
  • Azam on Saturday also became the first player to score 500 runs in a single edition of PSL

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan captain Babar Azam became the first player to cross the 2,000-run mark in the Pakistan Super League (PSL) during a Karachi Kings vs Quetta Gladiators faceoff in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
During the same match, Azam also became the first player to score 500 runs in a single edition of PSL, as he scored 23 off 25 against Quetta Gladiators, taking his PSL6 tally to 501.
"#King #BabarAzam the 1st batsman in the history of #HBLPSL to score 2000 runs," Karachi Kings celebrated its batsman in a tweet.

 

 

The sixth edition of Pakistan’s flagship cricket super league tournament resumed at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on June 9. It was postponed in March after a string of positive coronavirus cases among players and officials.
As the PSL's top scorer, Azam is followed by Peshawar Zalmi's Kamran Akmal who has scored 1,763 runs.
Born in Lahore, the 26-year-old right-hand, top-order batsman was 12 when he already played serious tape-ball cricket. At age 15, he was declared Pakistan's best Under-15 batsman and made his List A debut.  
By 16, he was a first-class cricketer for Zarai Taraqiati Bank Limited (ZTBL) cricket team. By the time he received his first ODI cap, he already had six centuries and more than 2,000 List A runs at an average of 47.88 to his name.
In September 2018, Azam passed 2,000 runs in ODI cricket, reaching the milestone in just 45 innings. Only one player has ever gotten there quicker and that is South African great Hashim Amla. Amla took just 40 innings.
In the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup, Azam made history, scoring 474 runs at 67.61 to break Javed Miandad’s 1992 record for the most runs by a Pakistan batsman in a Cricket World Cup campaign.
In April, he ended Virat Kohli’s long reign at the top of the MRF Tyres ICC Men’s ODI Player Rankings, becoming only the fourth batsman from his country to attain number one position in the rankings.


Fintech firm to launch Pakistan's first financial 'super app,' plans expansion to Middle East

Fintech firm to launch Pakistan's first financial 'super app,' plans expansion to Middle East
Updated 04 June 2021

Fintech firm to launch Pakistan's first financial 'super app,' plans expansion to Middle East

Fintech firm to launch Pakistan's first financial 'super app,' plans expansion to Middle East
  • TAG Innovation plans to launch the country’s first digital retail bank after functioning as an electronic money institution for a substantial period
  • The company also intends to offer its services to Pakistan’s largest diaspora community in Saudi Arabia by the end of the year to facilitate foreign remittances

KARACHI: An Islamabad-based fintech firm is all set to launch Pakistan’s first financial super app by the end of the month that will help the country’s population open digital accounts and enjoy cross-border payment facility, the company’s top official said on Friday.
“We are planning to launch Pakistan’s first financial super app by the end of June,” Talal Ahmed Gondal, cofounder and chief executive officer of TAG Innovation, said while talking to Arab News. “Our intention is to target women and youth in the first marketing phase who don’t have access to formal bank accounts.”
“In the next stage, TAG plans to launch Pakistan’s first digital bank,” he continued, adding that his organization would operate as an electronic money institution (EMI) for now and offer relevant services to the intended target market.
“The app will enable users to open digital accounts within three minutes,” Gondal explained. “The users will then be able to make peer-to-peer transfers, dispatch money to bank accounts, pay utility bills and recharge their mobile credit. Their phone number will also be their account number.”
The fintech startup has been authorized by the State Bank of Pakistan to operate as an EMI and is launching its pilot phase.
TAG recently closed $5.5 million in a pre-seed round led by venture capitals from the United States, including Quiet Capital Management and Liberty City Ventures. Other participants were Fatima Gobi Ventures, Unpopular Ventures as well as strategic investors like Visa and Angels Investors, the TAG chief informed.
The funding round makes it the largest ever pre-seed in the Middle East, North Africa and Pakistan region. The position was previously held by an Egyptian fintech, Telda, which raised $5 million, according to the data compiled by various venture capital institutions.
Gondal said Pakistan was among the difficult markets for funding since the economic ecosystem was still not mature for the purpose.
“In the US, it would have taken us a maximum of five weeks, but it took us five months here to generate the funding,” he said, though he also recognized that Pakistani market was still untapped with a huge potential.
The TAG chief said his company would utilize the funding for its commercial launch and to expand its outreach in the Middle East to facilitate remittance inflows and cross-border payments.
“We will Initially launch our services in Pakistan but offer them in the Middle East by the end of the year,” he said, adding that TAG wanted to begin the process from Saudi Arabia by hiring a local team since that was where “the highest number of expat Pakistanis live.”
“The funds will be transferred between Saudi and Pakistani TAG accounts within a minute at a very low rate,” he continued while pointing out that the facility would be offered with the help of Saudi banks.
Gondal said that large number of women and youth, particularly students, did not have access to formal banking channels.
“Existing players are mainly targeting lower income segments, but we will offer services to all income groups as the first B2C operator across Pakistan,” he said, adding: “The farming community will also be tapped to receive or make payments for wheats or subsidies.”
According to the World Bank, Pakistan has the third largest unbanked adult population in the world with about 100 million people without their own accounts.
“There are 60 million total bank accounts in Pakistan out of which unique accounts are estimated at 20 million,” Muhammad Sohail, chief executive officer of Topline Securities, said. “About 70 percent of Pakistan’s adult population lacks access to bank accounts.”
According to Pakistan’s central bank, the country has a low volume of electronic transactions due to low banking penetration, lack of trust and awareness related to digital payment methods, limited interoperability and high cost of transactions.