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Pakistan reaches 1 million shots a day after warning unvaccinated face penalties

·2 min read

By Asif Shahzad

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan hit a target on Tuesday to vaccinate one million people a day against COVID-19, making strides in its inoculation campaign just weeks away from a deadline for workers in public-facing roles to obtain vaccination certificates.

The government announced last week that from the end of this month that workers in schools, shopping malls and hospitality businesses, and the transport and air travel industries would be barred from entering public offices unless they had a certificate.

"Happy to report that the target we had set for 1 million vaccinations in a day was crossed," Asad Umar, the minister in-charge for COVID-19 operations, said in a tweet.

Pakistan has seen soaring coronavirus infections, fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant, putting its poor health infrastructure under extreme pressure.

Out of a population of 220 million, more than 31 million

have received one vaccine shot, but only 6.7 million have been

fully vaccinated, according to the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC), a military run body that oversees the COVID-19 operations.

It said Pakistan registered 3,582 new cases and 67 deaths in the last 24 hours, with more than 3,300 people in critical condition. So far 23,529 people have died of COVID-19 in Pakistan, with over one million infections.

Officials say more than 70% of new cases are Delta variant infections.

After a sluggish start to the inoculation campaign, the new requirement for certificates of vaccination has led to a rush of people seeking shots, with queues stretching over a kilometre outside some vaccination centres, notably in the southern port city of Karachi, the capital of Sindh province.

The provincial government in Sindh has put extra pressure on people to get vaccinated, warning that it would withhold the salaries of government servants and block people's cell phone SIM cards unless they had the required certificates.

Around 23% of people being tested for COVID-19 in Karachi during recent days were found to have the virus, while nationwide the positive test rate stood just over 7%, according to the NCOC. [nL3N2OL3NF}

(Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hasan in Karachi; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)