Special Correspondent of THE CONSUL”, Farhan Khan interviewed Dr Yasmin Rashid, Health Minister Punjab on a whole range of issues facing the people.

Excerpts from the interview

Q: This is the start of new year. Can we expect that we are going to have some good news regarding  regarding the Covid-19 situation?

A: No doubt the previous year was very difficult not only for us but for the whole world. Pakistan was lucky, because the rate of infection and fatality rate was low comparatively. There is a saying that “Every cloud has a silver lining”. We learned a lot from this pandemic situation. We concentrated on the infrastructure related to health, like new laboratories. Because of this we are in a better position to deal with any pandemic. So, I wouldn’t call any year a bad one; we learn a lot from our experiences, which will be beneficial for future generations. This pandemic also showed us that our nation is very responsible. I remember during lockdown, how everyone came forward to help those in need. It is a blessing that people of Pakistan are helpful for each other. Government also played its role. Rs 14 billion were allocated to deal with this Covid-19 situation. We tried our best that any medication or any other health requirement for Covid patients are provided free of cost. There were injections worth Rs 1.5 Lac which were provided to patients for free. This was a good gesture from the  government. So we learnt a lot from this situation, like we set up quarantine centers and developed field hospitals. It’s because of this that we were recognized by the whole world.

Q: How much is the wave is dangerous and difficult to deal with. And to what extent, the new Infrastructure and other developments will help to fight the new wave of Covid-19?

A: The upgraded health infrastructure very helpful. The number of ventilators and oxygenated beds were increased, the number of laboratories increased and provision of PPE kits was ensured. We now know better as to which regime is better and effective. So definitely, new patients are having better care than patients 6 months ago.

Q: What is the progress regarding the vaccine situation?

A: The federal government is taking the necessary steps. In the first quarter of the current year, we are going to have the vaccine for our frontline workers like our doctors, nurses, paramedics and rescue workers. After vaccination they will be able to provide better services to Covid patients. This will improve the overall situation of our fight against this pandemic.

Q: When will the vaccine be available for general public?

A: The government will not stop at vaccinating frontline workers. We are doing our best. Initially 20 percent of the public will be vaccinated and gradually government will provide vaccination for the entire population.

Q: There are many conspiracy theories circulating about the vaccine, and not everyone is interested in getting this vaccination?

A: The government will not force anyone to get vaccinated. People are free to take their own decision. But there is no need to fear. Every vaccine has some minor side effects which is generally well tolerated. Any major side effects, if found during the trials, will be countered. The third stage trial is going on, and if there is any issue it will be resolved.

Q: Any message for the public?

A: After vaccination starts, the situation will improve. Until then everyone should take care of themselves by observing social distancing, wearing masks, and hand washing. We should adopt all preventive measures for ourselves and for others.

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