A health official collects a swab sample from a man to test for the COVID-19 coronavirus inside a van along the roadside in Islamabad. Image Credit: AFP

Islamabad: Authorities in Pakistan are expecting an early arrival of COVID-19 vaccine after the Chinese government’s announcement that it had issued directions to its companies to “speed up export of vaccines to Pakistan”.

The Pakistan government had earlier given the first quarter of the current year as the most probable time for vaccine procurement. However, after the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s announcement, it hopes to have it sooner.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Hua Chunying a day earlier had announced at a media briefing that China would provide a ‘batch of vaccines’ to Pakistan as ‘aid’ and assured it would direct its firms to expedite the vaccine export to its friend and close ally.

“In order to support our brothers and sisters in Pakistan, the Chinese government has decided to provide a batch of vaccines as aid and will actively coordinate with the relevant Chinese enterprise to speed up export of vaccines to Pakistan,” further said the Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson.

The spokesperson also said Chinese State Councillor Wang Yi had informed Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi of the decision made by the Chinese government.

Hua said that Pakistan and China were “all-weather strategic cooperative partners,” she said adding both countries also had a “fine tradition of mutual support and assistance”.

The spokesperson also reminded the reporters that this year both countries will be observing the 70th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic ties.

Sindh opens shopping malls during weekend

Meanwhile, the Sindh government has issued a notification according to which all the shopping malls and big markets will remain open in the provincial capital of Karachi.

According to the notification, the shopping malls will now be allowed to operate seven days a week provided that they strictly follow the government’s coronavirus Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

The notification, however, made it clear if a shopping mall was situated in a coronavirus hotspot within the city, then it would not be allowed to open as only essential businesses had the permission to operate therein.

Earlier, the provincial government had allowed big businesses to operate for five days a week due to coronavirus.

COVID-19 cases surge to 530,818

Pakistan on Saturday reported 43 deaths and 1,927 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the last 24 hours period thus registering an overall number of 530,818 COVID-19 cases and 11,247 deaths.

According to the National Command & Operation Centre (NCOC), Pakistan conducted 40,403 tests for COVID-19 in one day while the number of recoveries in the same period stand at 1,737.

Pakistan’s recovery rate, according to the NCOC, is currently 91.3 per cent while there are 35,063 active cases in the country.