UK COVID-19 variant spreading rapidly in Punjab: health minister

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LAHORE: The coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom is causing a rise in infections in the province, said Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid on Thursday.

The UK variant is spreading fast because it’s more infectious, she added. The influx of people travelling back from the UK has resulted in a rise in infections in Lahore, Jhelum, Okara and Gujarat.

Around 70% of the COVID-19 cases being reported in these cities are of the new variant, Dr Rashid said.

Cases started rising again in Punjab towards the end of February, according to government statistics. On Thursday, 1,290 new cases were recorded compared to 1,006 on Wednesday. Around 700 to 1,000 new cases are being reported on an everyday basis.

People started taking it lightly when cases declined, Dr Rashid said. They stopped wearing masks and carrying hand sanisiters.

The government also started reopening businesses, wedding halls and other public places after the second coronavirus wave plateaued, she said. There needs to be strict compliance of mask-wearing and smart lockdowns will be reimposed if cases keep rising. 

COVID-19 vaccination in Punjab

A total of 96,592 health workers have received the vaccine to date, said Captain (R) Muhammad Usman Younis, the secretary of the provincial primary and secondary healthcare department.

The government started giving the vaccine to people over 60 on Wednesday and so far 4,219 people have been vaccinated, said the health secretary.

“We are giving the Sinopharm vaccine,” he said. “It’s a good vaccine and no severe effects have been reported. Please have confidence in the system. Don’t wait for other vaccines and risk the lives of our elderly people.”

A total of 114 vaccine centres have been established in Punjab. Each centre has eight to 10 counters for vaccination. The cold chain system is effective. Health workers are doing double shifts and we will increase the capacity if needed, said Younis.

He requested people over 60 to register for the vaccine by sending their CNIC number to 1166.

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