ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Wednesday ruled out a general lockdown while acknowledging the country was going through a third wave of the pandemic.

"We have to adopt a balanced policy where the spread of the virus can be prevented and where the poor man and the country's economy are least affected," Khan told a national coordinating committee meeting.

Pakistan has opted for what officials call "smart lockdowns" -- short-term restrictions imposed often at neighbourhood level -- to try to tame the disease while keeping the economy afloat.

While federal and provincial governments have announced restrictions on gatherings, public transportation, and mask mandates, the measures have largely not been enforced.

Khan said he would direct the government to reinforce the mask mandates.

Pakistan is scrambling to get more vaccine as it awaits WHO/COVAX/GAVI allocations of AstraZeneca's vaccine, which have been delayed.

The country is planning to acquire enough of a concentrated form of the Chinese CanSino Biologics vaccine next month to locally produce 3 million doses.

"We are speeding up this process and want to take it to the next stage," Sultan said.

Pakistan has allowed the private sector to import and sell vaccine, but a legal dispute between an importer and the government over the price has delayed that mechanism.-Reuters

A BR reporter adds: Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the provincial governments to make effective the role of the district administration for implementation of the SOPs against coronavirus as it was spreading rapidly in the country.

The prime minister, while chairing meeting of the National Coordination Committee on Covid, also emphasised to start an aggressive awareness campaign for implementation of the SOPs to contain the “third wave” of Covid-19 in the country.

He chaired the meeting through video link.

The prime minister was given briefing on spread of coronavirus, ratio of positive cases, availability of vaccine, and measures being taken to make available vaccine to the people of the country.

He expressed concern over negligence by the people in observing the SOPs, saying wearing of mask had remained more effective across the world, and stated that there was a need to spread awareness among the masses.

The prime minister added it was a proven fact world over that wearing mask was very effective against spread of coronavirus, and stated that there was a need to adopt a balanced strategy against the “third wave”, keeping in view, the difficulties of the people.

He said that last wave of corona affected employment of 20 million people and now a balanced policy had to be pursued during the third wave to make sure that the people were protected and the economy was least affected.