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EDITORIAL: Vaccination progress is beginning to show a sizeable fall in Covid-19 positivity rate. Whereas during the current wave of the pandemic the highest positivity ratio was recorded at 10.1 percent on April 19; last Tuesday it was 2.95 percent. That though is no reason for complacency. In fact, many people are still resistant to vaccination. It is good to note that the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) is determined to intensify its vaccination campaign. At its meeting on Wednesday, co-chaired by Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and National Coordinator Lt-Gen Hamoodur Zaman Khan, it was decided to make it mandatory for all public and private sector employees to get inoculated by June 30. Starting June 11, persons over 18 years of age are also to be extended walk-in facility at all vaccination centres. Under consideration are some incentives for various sectors to increase vaccination acceptance. It needs to be pointed out that there are many people who do not have national identity cards, required for vaccination registration. A way needs to be found to register them and put jabs in their arms too.

For its part, the government has been making an admirable effort to maximise inoculation. An amount of one billion dollars has been allocated for the procurement of vaccines from all available sources. So far, 10 million doses have been administered. According to the NCOC head, Asad Umar, the aim is to vaccinate around 70 million people by the end of the current year. That would be an important development though it would cover only about a one-third of the population – far short of the 70 percent target necessary to achieve herd immunity. Even so, it should help control the scourge of Covid to a significant extent considering that the rate of infection in this country is quite low, which is attributable to the fact that a vast majority of the population resides in the relative safety of an open rural environment, unlike those working and living in crowded urban settings. Nonetheless, this pandemic will remain a clear and present danger unless effectively countered. As Asad Umar rightly averred, “we still have a long way to go.”

In the meanwhile, NCOC has adopted an appreciable hands-on approach towards the situation, making policy adjustments on as-and-when needed basis. While focusing on the vaccination campaign, curbs on public activities are being eased to attain a balance between lives and livelihoods. Starting on June 15 restriction on two-day closure of markets is being limited to one day, allowing provinces and administrative units to choose the day. The 50 percent work-from-home restriction is being lifted in favour of 100 percent attendance. The two-day weekly ban on inter-provincial transport goes while 50 percent occupancy in public transport gets enhanced to 70 percent. People can also participate in selected non-contact sports. But restrictions on the education sector, railways, shrines and cinema remain in place till further orders. This should help; but it goes without saying that the return of normalcy depends on the success of vaccination campaign.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021