Pakistan lowers age limit for coronavirus booster shot amid surging infection rate

A girl receives a dose of coronavirus vaccine in Karachi, Pakistan, on December 15, 2021. (REUTERS)
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Updated 14 January 2022

Pakistan lowers age limit for coronavirus booster shot amid surging infection rate

  • The National Command and Operation Center says citizens over 18 years are now eligible for a free jab of their choice
  • The coronavirus positivity ratio has gone up in the country to 7.36 percent, with 675 patients in critical care

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s central pandemic response body announced its decision to reduce the age limit for COVID-19 booster shot on Friday, saying citizens over 18 years of age would be eligible to receive one free dose of any coronavirus vaccine from Saturday.
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) took the decision in its meeting earlier in the day, as the number of fresh COVID-19 cases continue to increase in the country.
According to official statistics, Pakistan recorded 3,567 new cases of the virus in the last 24 hours and reported seven deaths.
The infection rate in the country has substantially gone up since the emergence of the omicron variant of the virus which spreads more rapidly than its other types.
“In Todays NCOC session, age limit for booster dose has been further reduced,” the NCOC announced in a Twitter post. “From tomorrow onwards, citizens over 18 years will be eligible for free booster dose of their choice. Booster (one dose) will be administered after 6 months gap from complete vaccination.”

The pandemic response body informed that 48,449 COVID-19 tests had been conducted in Pakistan during the last 24 hours, taking its positivity ratio to 7.36 percent.
It added there were 675 critical care patients in the country.
Amid the ongoing surge in coronavirus cases, Pakistan’s planning minister Asad Umar recently asked people to get themselves inoculated.
He also urged fully vaccinated citizens to get a booster shot, if they had taken their second dose more than six months ago.


Pakistani stocks jump over 2% as government ends fuel price freeze

Updated 13 sec ago

Pakistani stocks jump over 2% as government ends fuel price freeze

  • Pakistan announced it would hike fuel prices to resume receiving aid from a $6 billion IMF package
  • Subsidies were announced by ex-PM Imran Khan in his last days in power against IMF recommendations

KARACHI: Pakistani stocks jumped more than 2% shortly after opening on Friday, reacting positively to an overnight decision by the government to end a months-old freeze on fuel prices.
Pakistan late on Thursday announced it would hike fuel prices so that it can resume receiving aid from a $6 billion package signed with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2019.
"The market is reacting to the government's move to withdraw fuel subsidies," Saad Hashemy, executive director at BMA Capital Management, told Reuters. "It shows the government's resolve to address teething issues in the economy and will pave the way for the IMF program and other funding sources."
Fuel prices rose 20% on Friday, causing long lines to form at filling stations as the news spread. The new price of petrol will be 179.86 rupee per litre and diesel will be 174.15 rupee.
Reuters reported earlier on Thursday that the IMF and Islamabad had reached a deal to release over $900 million in funds, once Pakistan removed the fuel subsidies and hiked prices, according to a Pakistani source directly involved in talks in Qatar that concluded on Wednesday.
The IMF has said that considerable progress had been made in the talks, but emphasised the urgency for Pakistan to remove fuel and energy subsidies to get back on track.
The benchmark stock index was 2.26% higher at 0544 GMT, according to exchange data.
Pakistan's currency also rebounded against the dollar on Friday, traders said, following days of declines amid dwindling foreign exchange reserves and speculation that the IMF deal was in trouble.

PIA to begin Hajj flight operations from May 31

Updated 27 May 2022

PIA to begin Hajj flight operations from May 31

  • Hajj flights to take off from eight Pakistani cities and land in Jeddah and Madinah
  • Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims this year is 81,132 as one million people join this year’s Hajj

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) will start this year’s Hajj flight operations from May 31, PIA announced on Thursday, as Saudi Arabia lets up to one million people join the Hajj pilgrimage this year, greatly expanding it to participants from outside the kingdom after two years of tight COVID restrictions.

Pilgrims to Makkah this year must be under age 65 and fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the ministry of Hajj and Umrah said in a statement last month. Pakistan’s quota of pilgrims this year is 81,132 and the maximum age limit of travellers is 65.

“PIA's flight operation will continue with 297 flights from May 31 to August 13," Pakistan’s national flag carrier said in a statement. “Hajj operation will be carried out from 8 cities of Pakistan, Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Multan, Peshawar and Quetta.”

PIA said the Hajj flights to Saudi Arabia would fly to Jeddah and Madinah.

Saudi Arabia has said participants from abroad must present a recent negative COVID PCR test, and health precautions will be observed.

Last year, the kingdom limited the annual Hajj, one of Islam's five main pillars, to 60,000 domestic participants, compared to the pre-pandemic 2.5 million.

After knowledge portal, Pakistan-China business body plans technology transfer gateway

Updated 27 May 2022

After knowledge portal, Pakistan-China business body plans technology transfer gateway

  • Nearly 3,000 people have benefitted from the knowledge portal set up last year
  • New online gateway aims to facilitate technology transfer from China

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan-China Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCJCCI) said on Thursday nearly 3,000 people had benefitted from a knowledge portal established last year to facilitate businesses in the two countries and was now planning to set up an online technology gateway.

The chamber was established in 2013 to promote investment and commerce between Pakistan and China and protect the interests of business entities in both countries.

The two regional allies had also launched the multibillion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in the same year under which Beijing pledged over $60 billion for infrastructure and development projects in Pakistan.

“The PCJCCI initiated the first-ever knowledge portal on October 7, 2021, and almost 3,000 people have benefited through this portal so far,” the chamber’s president Wang Zihai told Arab News in a written reply from Beijing.

The knowledge portal contains information on projects and economic collaboration between the two countries and offers registration facilities to companies along with immigration information.

After the "success" of the portal, Zihai said, a Pak-China technology gateway would now be established.

Ehsan Chaudhry, the chamber’s senior vice president, said the gateway would transfer technology no longer used in China to Pakistan to be used for the South Asian country’s industrial requirements.

“The acquisition of appropriate technology from China in the field of renewable energy and alternative sources of energy, such as solar, nanotechnology, wind power, run of the river power plants, will be our top priority,” he told Arab News.

“Pakistan can import traditional machinery from China at a low cost because our labors are much friendly with low-key advanced technology,” he added, without sharing when the technology gateway would be operational. 

Salahuddin Hanif, the chamber’s secretary general, said the joint Pakistan-China body had initiated various Chinese language courses to remove communication barrier between the two nations.

“Around 25,000 students actively participated in these courses,” he told Arab News. “We have also compiled and published various books for making the learning process more comprehensive for Pakistani people.”

Hanif said the chamber was working to encourage Chinese industrialists to collaborate with Pakistan, adding that new courses would soon be announced on the knowledge portal.

“We are going to launch various courses very soon to convey contemporary knowledge and information related to various sectors," Hanif said, "like electronic and automotive advancement, insurance, agriculture, textiles, shoe manufacturing, chemicals, battery recycling plant, and real estate advisory.”

Pakistan raises fuel prices after inconclusive IMF talks in Doha

Updated 26 May 2022

Pakistan raises fuel prices after inconclusive IMF talks in Doha

  • Finance minister Miftah Ismail says the government has increased petroleum prices by Rs30 per liter
  • Pakistan hopes to reach a staff level agreement with the IMF for the resumption of $6 billion loan facility

KARACHI: Pakistan’s finance minister Miftah Ismail announced on Thursday the government had decided to increase fuel prices by Rs30 per liter after his negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the resumption of a $6 billion loan package remained inconclusive due to subsidies on petroleum products.

The subsidies were part of a relief package provided by former prime minister Imran Khan in February amid rising inflation which he said was going to cost over $2 billion between April and June 2022. The IMF had objected over his decision while refusing to release the next loan installment of about $1 billion.

Pakistan desperately needs external financing to boost its falling foreign exchange reserves which, at the current level of $10 billion, can barely cover two months of import payments. The new government has been seeking the IMF support since assuming the political power of the country, though it remained reluctant to meet the stringent terms and conditions of the international lending agency.

“The government has decided to protect the poor and its details will soon be announced by the prime minister himself in an address to the nation,” Ismail told a news conference in Islamabad. “I have only come here to tell you that the government has decided that from Friday, 27th of May, the prices of petrol, diesel, kerosene oil and light diesel oil will be increased by Rs30 per liter.”

He said that the new price of petrol and diesel would be Rs179.86 and Rs174.15 per liter, respectively.

Ismail hoped the government’s decision would help stabilize markets.

“It will also stabilize the rupee and improve the situation at the stock market,” he continued. “Most importantly, it will bring back some balance within the economy.”

The finance minister maintained it was a difficult decision since increased fuel prices would to negatively impact the government’s political capital.

However, he added it was the right move for the country since it was important for everyone to know that the new administration was truly determined to fix Pakistan’s economic woes.

Responding to a question, he said he was optimistic that Pakistan would soon reach a staff level agreement with the IMF.

The finance minister discussed the possibility of increasing the size of the loan by another $2 billion for an extended period of one year during his meetings with IMF officials in Washington in April.

He later told journalists in the US that the resumption of IMF loan program would also help unlock more funding from multilateral donors.

In the absence of a breakthrough in recent talks with the international lending agency in Doha, however, Pakistan’s national currency hit another all-time low of Rs202.01 against the greenback on Thursday due to increasing demand for the US dollar for import payments.

Pakistani economists criticized the government for not taking tough decisions earlier in the day, saying its indecisiveness was further aggravating the economic crisis.

“With reserves continuing to slide and no signal from the government that it is willing to take tough measures, Pakistan faces a situation where things can very quickly spiral out of control,” Uzair Younus, who works with Pakistan Initiative at Washington-based Atlantic Council, told Arab News. “Once herd mentality kicks in, it will be even more painful to stabilize the economy.”

Four-time champions, Pakistan fail to qualify for Hockey World Cup 2023

Updated 26 May 2022

Four-time champions, Pakistan fail to qualify for Hockey World Cup 2023

  • Pakistan crashed out of Asia Cup after India’s convincing 16-0 win over Indonesia
  • The ongoing tournament in Jakarta serves as qualifier for next year’s World Cup

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday failed to qualify for the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH) World Cup 2023 after crashing out of the Asia Cup in the wake of India’s emphatic 16-0 victory over Indonesia, reported the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency.

Once counted among the best hockey teams in the world, Pakistan have won the world cup four times in 1971, 1978, 1981 and 1994.

The last world cup was won by Belgium in 2018.

The green shirts crashed out of the next year’s hockey tournament after they failed to enter the super four stage of the Asia Cup currently played in Jakarta.

“Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia have sealed the FIH World Cup 2023 berths,” the APP said. “India qualify as hosts and Pakistan are out of the race.”

Losing 2-3 to Japan, Pakistan’s fate in the tournament was sealed after India decimated Indonesia to advance into the final four stage of the cup, pushing Pakistan out on goal difference.

Pakistan also failed to qualify for the FIH grand tournament next year since the Asia Cup served as its qualifier.

The green shirts began their Asia Cup bid with a 1-1 draw against India. They thumped Indonesia 13-0 in their next game before losing to Japan.