The forum stressed the Omicron variant was spreading fast globally and the only protection against it was vaccination. Image Credit: Gulf News

Islamabad: Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has given the go-ahead to booster shots of COVID-19 vaccines for healthcare workers, immune-compromised persons and those aged 50 and above.

The decision was taken during a meeting of the forum on Wednesday to review the gravity of the new coronavirus variant, Omicron, across the world.

The NCOC meeting decided that like the previous shots, these booster jabs would also be free. However, they would not be administered before the passage of six months since the last dose.

The forum also discussed the coronavirus situation in the country, the pandemic curve and the pace of vaccination.

It also discussed cities’ progress in vaccinating their residents against COVID-19.

The forum stressed the Omicron variant was spreading fast globally and the only protection against it was vaccination.


Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiative Asad Umar, who is also the Chairman of the NCOC, had earlier warned the latest strain was inevitable and Pakistan would sooner or later be hit by it. “The country has only a few weeks to contain the threat,” he said at a press conference, adding that vaccination was the most logical solution to curb the threat.

The NCOC also decided to take strict measures to enforce an “obligatory vaccination regime” from December 1 and directed provincial authorities to adopt a zero-tolerance policy regarding its implementation.

Call Centres set up across country to contact unvaccinated

The forum was informed that 40 call centres were established across the country to contact those who have not yet received their second doses. The number of call centres would be increased in the future.

The provincial health ministers and chief secretaries gave presentations during the meeting and highlighted initiatives taken to boost the vaccination campaign, improve testing numbers and establish call centres, it was said in a statement after the meeting.

“All provinces will start vaccination outreach campaigns immediately to achieve the vaccination targets,” the statement added.

During the meeting, representatives from all the provinces stressed the need to focus on the Omicron variant and take necessary measures at airports for checking the vaccination status as well as testing of travellers.

Sindh announces new restrictions

Meanwhile, the province of Sindh has announced a number of restrictions in order to keep the new variant at bay. They are:

- Indoor dining allowed for vaccinated people till 11:59pm with 70 per cent occupancy for Karachi, Sukkur, and Sanghar and 50 per cent for the rest of the province.

- Indoor, outdoor gatherings allowed for vaccinated individuals. For Karachi, Sukkur and Sanghar the limit is 500 people for indoor events and 1,000 for outdoor. For the rest of the province, it is 300 people for indoor and 1,000 for outdoor.

- Outdoor dining is allowed for fully vaccinated citizens till 11:59pm.

- Markets and businesses can function till 10pm while essential services can operate 24/7.

- Shrines, indoor gyms and cinemas are open for fully vaccinated individuals.

- 100 per cent attendance at offices with routine timings.

- Amusement parks and swimming pools will operate at 70 per cent occupancy in Karachi, Sukkur and Sanghar and 50 per cent for the rest of the province.

Business as usual in ‘best’ cities

According to the NCOC, cities with more than 50 per cent vaccination have been declared ‘best’ cities and it’s business as usual in these cities. Some of these cities include Islamabad, Jhelum, Narowal, Gilgit, etc. Here shrines, gyms and wedding halls can continue with 100 per cent attendance with SOPs in place.

There are 27 cities with 40 per cent to 50 per cent vaccination which have been categorised as ‘better.’

They include Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, Nagar, Sargodha, Charsadda and others. The rest of the cities with less than 40pc vaccination would have to observe the new restrictions