Asad Umar, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, says the coronavirus vaccine will be available in March. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Islamabad: Asad Umar, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Planning Development and Special Initiatives, said the coronavirus vaccine would be made available by March.

He also made it clear that provinces and the private sector are free to import vaccines subject to approval of the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP).

While appearing in a talk show on a private TV, Asad Umar said since day one, the National Command & Operation Centre (NCOC) had adopted the policy that the federal government would not have the monopoly to import anti-coronavirus vaccines.

“Provinces and private entities including hospitals have been allowed to import the vaccines that are approved by DRAP,” said the minister.

About AstraZeneca vaccine that has been approved by the drug regulatory authority, he said the Sindh government could import the vaccine, provided it could procure its supplies from abroad.

Sinopharm approved

The minister said China’s Sinopharm vaccine was also approved by a technical committee and the only obstacle was the mechanism how to distribute it locally and it would be decided by Tuesday.

About China’s CanSino vaccine, he said its third phase of clinical trials was currently underway in Pakistan. The trials’ results would arrive by mid-February and if those are promising it too would be available in March.

He said with Pakistan being a signatory to the Covax alliance, vaccines from multiple sources would be procured and made available in the first quarter of the year.

Grim milestone

Pakistan on Sunday reported 43 deaths and 2,521 confirmed cases of COVID-19 during the last twenty-four hours thus recording the number of overall deaths due to COVID-19 to 10,951 and tally of infections 519,291.

According to the NCOC, there are still 2,373 critical cases of COVID-19 while 1,540 cases have been recovered from COVID-19 registering an overall 473,693 recoveries.

The NCOC data further shows that the number of active cases in the country hovers over 34,701 which has the sufficient reason to alarm the authorities.

Heavy fine

The district administration in Lahore has sealed 37 shops, restaurants and imposed a heavy fine of PKR 50,000 (Dirham 1,139) fine on violation of coronavirus related Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

According to a spokesperson for the district administration, Assistant Commissioner (AC) Model Town Zeshan Ranjha sealed two shops in C-Block Model Town while AC Cantt Sakhi Shakir sealed 12 shops two restaurants in Cantt area and imposed PKR 15,000 (Dirham 341) fine on overcharging and PKR 10,000 (Dirham 227) for SOPs violation.

AC City Fizan Ahmed sealed 22 shops over SOPs violation and imposed PKR 15,000 (Dirham 341) fine on overcharging and PKR 10,000 for SOPs violation.

The district administration teams also inspected public and private transport vehicles during the crackdown and besides imposing fine also issued warnings to transporters and drivers to follow coronavirus SOPs strictly, the spokesperson added.