No jab, no phone: Unvaccinated to have SIM cards blocked, Pakistan’s Punjab govt says

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11-06-21 11:08:00,

Punjab’s provincial government is turning to coercive measures to increase participation in its Covid-19 vaccination program, after unveiling plans to disable the SIM cards of people who decline to get jabbed.

The extreme decision was made during a meeting of high-ranking civil and military officials chaired by Punjab Health Minister Yasmin Rashid.

Rashid said that the policy would disable SIM cards belonging to those who fail to get  vaccinated “beyond a certain time.” 

“We are doing all we can to compel people to get vaccinated… The government cannot allow individuals, who do not want to get vaccinated, to risk lives of those who are already vaccinated,” the health minister told Pakistan’s Express Tribune. She said that the provincial government would devise a timeline for the policy’s implementation once it received formal approval from the National Command and Operation Center, which coordinates Pakistan’s national response to Covid-19. 

Punjab’s Primary and Secondary Health Department announced the measure on Thursday in a tweet detailing the outcome of the meeting. 

“Mobile SIMS of people not getting vaccinated may be blocked,” the department wrote. 

Mobile SIMS of people not getting vaccinated may be blocked, it was decided in Cabinet meeting under the chair of Minister for Health Dr. Yasmin Rashid at Civil Secretariat. The government will open walk-in vaccination of over 18 years of age group. pic.twitter.com/VXJWAWGzkd

— Primary & Secondary Healthcare Department Punjab (@PSHDept) June 10, 2021

Officials later signaled that the plan was moving forward. 

“[A] final decision has been taken to block the mobile SIM cards of people not getting vaccinated,” Punjab Specialized Healthcare Department spokesman Syed Hammad Raza told Dawn, a Pakistani daily. 

Citing a senior health department official, the paper said that the Punjab government will seek help from the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) in order to implement the policy. 

The measure is designed to counter “negative propaganda” about the jab and ensure that vaccination targets are met, Dawn reported, citing the official. The provincial government is aiming to vaccinate 40 million residents by November. 

In addition to the SIM card restrictions, authorities might also ban unvaccinated people from going to parks, restaurants and malls,

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