Pakistan on Monday received the first batch of 500,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine donated by its closest ally, China, as the country gears up to kick start its immunisation drive later this week.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told Dawn, "This year is even more significant as it marks 70 years since we established diplomatic ties. We have planned to celebrate [the milestone] and open new doors of cooperation and friendship." Qureshi thanked China President Xi Jinping and his China Foreign Minister Wang Yi. Qureshi also thanked China for standing alongside Pakistan to fight the coronavirus.
The vaccines were flown in from China on a special plane of the Pakistan Air Force.
The consignment was formally handed over to Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi by Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong at Nur Khan Air Base in Rawalpindi.
The minister appreciated the top Chinese leadership and its Army for critical help in tackling the pandemic. Chinese Ambassador Rong said Pakistan is the first country to receive the COVID-19 vaccines for free from the Chinese government.
He said China sees Pakistan as its “closest friend” and “priority for cooperation”.
China is also supplementing vaccine efforts of 13 developing countries including Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Palestine and Brunei. Indonesia, Brazil and Turkey have approved the Sinopharm vaccine for emergency use.
Pakistan had reopened school and colleges in September last year, following a five-month break due to the virus outbreak.
However, a second virus wave led to all education institutions getting closed on November 25. Pakistan had opened schools for grades IX to XII on January 18. Other education institutes were to reopen on February 1.
Planning Minister and NCOC (National Command Operation Center) chair Asad Umar said the process of registration of citizens over 65 years would start in the next 10 to 15 days.
Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Pechuho said that the vaccination process in the province would begin on February 3 with the Sinopharm vaccine.
COVID-19 cases in Pakistan has reached 501,252, according to the Ministry of National Health Services.
-with PTI inputs