Omicron variant: Pakistan adopts ‘zero tolerance’ policy

A healthcare worker inoculates a citizen at a COVID-19 vaccination centre in Larkana’s Jinnah Bagh. Photo: APP

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has adopted a “zero tolerance” policy and announced a new vaccination plan to counter the Omicron threat under which booster shots will be given to immunocompromised people, healthcare workers and those aged over 50 years.

A meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) was held today which discussed the epidemic curve chart data, national vaccine strategy and disease prevalence across the country.

The NCOC session was chaired by Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and co-chaired by National Coordinator Major General Muhammad Zafar Iqbal while SAPM Dr Faisal Sultan and provincial health ministers and chief secretaries attended the meeting virtually.

The forum was briefed about the COVID-19 positivity ratio, disease prevalence, number of deaths and new admissions and discussed in detail, the overall city-wise COVID-19 vaccination process.

To counter the emerging Omicron threat, the NCOC approved booster dose administration for three categories which include healthcare workers, people above 50 years and immunocompromised people.

The dose will be free of cost and it can be administered six months after the last dose of a vaccine.

It was also emphasised that the Omicron variant is spreading fast across the globe and the only protection against it is vaccination and basic SOPs, including wearing of face masks, social distancing and hand washing should be ensured.

The NCOC agreed to take strict measures regarding the obligatory vaccination regime. It was decided that the vaccination teams should be deployed at various public spots to vaccinate the individuals on the spot.

The country’s apex COVID-19 body decided that a special campaign will be run for the implementation of the obligatory regime starting from December 1.

The forum instructed the provinces and authorities concerned to show a “zero tolerance” policy regarding an obligatory vaccination regime.

Call centres have been established to reach out to the people who have not got their second dose. A total of 40 call centres have been established across the country, while these numbers will also be increased to ensure a second dose of the vaccine.

The NCOC was also briefed by the provincial health ministers and chief secretaries about the initiatives taken to boost the vaccination campaign, improve testing numbers and establishment of call centres.

It was decided that all provinces will start vaccination outreach campaigns immediately to achieve vaccination targets.

The provincial representatives also emphasised the need to focus on the new variant of coronavirus and suggested taking necessary measures on airports to check the vaccination status and testing of expatriates. 

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