Federal Health Minister Qadir Patel on Wednesday announced that the government will begin vaccinating children between the ages of five and 11 against coronavirus “within a month or two” as he called for a return to Covid precautionary measures. At a media briefing of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in Islamabad, he said vaccines for children in the 5-11 year age bracket were only available with Pfizer. “We have engaged in a dialogue with them. Hopefully, by August or September, we will receive 6.8 million doses from Pfizer which is a step forward,” he said. Covid cases in Pakistan, the minister noted, had increased in the last few days. “The situation is not worrisome [yet] but it requires the public to be cautious.” For this purpose, the government is proposing three standard operating procedures (SOPs) that need to be “followed religiously”, he said. “We have made masks mandatory in all closed gatherings, airlines, railways and public transport. Social distancing and proper sanitisation are also very important.” Patel cautioned that Eidul Azha and Muharram were coming up during which large public gatherings are typically held. “We are mulling over strategies for these occasions as well, as the threat of coronavirus cases rising persists during these months,” he said. He added that the government has also decided to increase mass testing across the country on the orders of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif for which instructions had been sent to the health secretaries of all four provinces. Patel’s presser followed a meeting PM Shehbaz chaired on Covid. In the meeting, he stressed on implementation of SOPs in crowded areas. Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif appealed the nation to follow the anti-COVID SOPs as a surge was being recorded in the coronavirus cases in the country. He said that the front line health workers and doctors had rendered numerous sacrifices to keep the countrymen safe from the disease,, and also paid tribute to them. Therefore, he urged the people not to squander the success achieved against the coronavirus. The prime minister directed the chief secretaries of the provinces to ensure implementation of the SOPs at crowded places, besides enforcing full vaccination, booster doses, use of masks and sanitizers. He also called for use of masks and sanitizers at the cattle markets set up ahead of Eidul Azha, weddings and other private gatherings. The prime minister said the adherence to the SOPs was inevitable for the safety of one’s own as well as the dear ones. He said the performance of all institutions particularly the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) had been laudable during the COVID-19 pandemic. The meeting was briefed in detail about the COVID-19 situation at local as well as the global level. It was told that overall a downward trend was being observed in the number of cases across the world. The participants were told that the new variant of the Omicron led to a recent surge in coronavirus cases in the country. On June 28, over 3% cases were reported in the country on June 28, though the ratio of hospitalization in this variant was lesser than that of the previous waves. The health authorities told the meeting that 86% of above 12 years population had been fully vaccinated while 93 percent got at least single shot. Currently, the country’s capacity was to vaccinate around 200,000 people per day. It was told that whole of Sindh population had been fully vaccinated while the vaccination process was underway in Punjab and other provinces. Moreover, the steps were being taken to strictly monitor the movement of people on border and Pass Track APP was also being improved to make it easier to use. The prime minister also directed the authorities concerned not only to ensure the enforcement of the SOPs but also carry out a mass awareness drive on the subject. Federal minister Abdul Qadir Patel, Rana Sanaullah, Sherry Rehman, National Disaster Management Authority chairman, federal secretaries of information and national health services, and other senior officers attended the meeting. The chief secretaries of the four provinces joined the meeting via video link.