Asia Pacific

Pakistan demands proof of vaccine for school, restaurant, transport staff

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A paramedic prepares a dose of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine before administering it to a resident, at a vaccination center in Karachi, Pakistan April 1, 2021. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro//File Photo

ISLAMABAD, July 29 (Reuters) - Pakistan is to ban staff from entering public offices, schools, restaurants, transport and shopping malls without vaccination certificates, officials said on Thursday, despite only 2.7% of the population having had the full two COVID-19 vaccine shots.

The certificate will also be required for all air passengers and crew, said Asad Umar, who heads National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), a military-run body that oversees the pandemic response.

Out of a population of 220 million, more than 27.8 million have received one vaccine shot, but only 5.9 million have been fully vaccinated, according to the NCOC.

It said Pakistan registered 4,497 new cases and 76 deaths in the last 24 hours, with more than 3,000 people in critical condition. So far 23,209 people have died of COVID-19 in Pakistan.

Umar said the certificate would be required for air travel and school staff from Aug. 1 and from the end of August for employees of malls, restaurants, public transport and public sector offices.

Students aged above 18 will also be required to be vaccinated.

"If you're not vaccinated you can't go to teach at schools and colleges from August 1," Umar said.

"We can't put our children's lives at risk just because that you're not ready to get the vaccine."

Pakistan has seen coronavirus infections soar, dominated by Delta variant, and its poor health infrastructure is under extreme pressure.

The national positive test rate for COVID stands at 7.53%, according to the NCOC. The rate in the southern port city of Karachi touched 23% in recent weeks. [nL3N2OL3NF}

After a sluggish start, the government ramped up its national vaccination drive, especially in the heartland Punjab province, with 850,000 doses administered on Wednesday across the country.

Umar said the target is to touch one million doses a day.

Pakistan has largely relied on Chinese vaccines. Other vaccines, including AstraZeneca, Pfizer and Moderna, have arrived in donations through WHO's COVAX sharing programme for poor countries.

As part of that, the United States on Thursday donated three million Moderna doses, on top of 2.5 million given earlier, a U.S. embassy statement said.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and Nick Macfie

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