Punjab, Sindh, K-P end lockdown
Provinces open all sectors except marriage halls, educational institutions, expo halls
Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments lifted most of the coronavirus-related restrictions with advice of taking precautions and following the standard operating procedures (SOPs), warning that the threat of the disease was not over yet.
As the provincial governments issued notifications for ending the lockdown, the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) warned of potential spike in Covid-19 cases if health guidelines and the SOPs were not followed during the month of Muharramul Haram.
Subject to the strict adherence to the SOPs, the provinces allowed to open non-contact sports, clubs, gyms, hotels, restaurants, parks, salons, cinema houses, tourist spots, shrines, public transport and indoor and outdoor sporting events without spectators.
Gatherings can also be arranged subject to permission and again conditional on following the SOPs to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Religious or patriotic processions and gatherings, however, must be approved in advance, while attendance at Urs-related activities at shrines would be limited.
The educational institutions, marriage halls, business centres and expo halls, however, would remain closed until September 15. Moreover, the provincial or district authorities could restrict activities in any areas identified as hotspots or high-risk for the virus.
The decision has been taken in light of discussions at the NCOC and the National Coordination Committee (NCC), which agreed “to allow economic activities to lessen the economic burden on the population to the maximum possible extent while following precautionary measures”.
According to the Sindh government’s notification on Monday, business timings had been extended from 6am to 8pm, six days a week, while restaurants might open for dine-in until 10pm. On Saturdays, the timings could be extended by an hour.
“The number of occupants in closed spaces is to be limited, while distancing is to be ensured in seating arrangements as well,” said the notification. It however, warned that anyone found violating the SOPs was liable to face legal action, while businesses in violation may be closed.
Citizens have been advised to avoid areas with potential crowding and observe hand hygiene and social distancing. It was again pointed out in the notification that wearing face masks in public remained mandatory. Punjab “With the exception of wedding halls, all business centres have been reopened from today,” said the notification issued by the Punjab government. “Religious gatherings will be subjected to the permission of the concerned administration and implementation of the SOPs,” it added.
Issued by Primary and Secondary Healthcare Secretary Capt (retd) Muhammad Usman, the notification said that all business centres would be bound to implement the SOPs. “Business hours and weekly holidays will be same as before the coronavirus [outbreak],” it added.
“All kinds of public transport will run as usual, the notification said, adding however, the public transport Operators would have to ensure that preventive measures were being observed by passengers. The notification warned that the danger had not been over yet and advised people to remain cautious.
Earlier, the Punjab Tourism Department (PTD) issued a separate notification, comprising 14 precautionary guidelines, making it mandatory for the visitors to wear face masks at all times while visiting parks, museums, historical, and other recreational sites.
It said that all visitors would be checked for body temperatures at the entry points to these sites. While standing in the queues, it will be mandatory for visitors to maintain a safe distance of at least a metre and only one visitor at a time would be allowed to stand at booths for purchasing tickets.
Visitors using washrooms at the recreational sites will be provided with medicated soap. Furthermore, the staff at these sites would have to undergo a brief medical exam before joining duties for the day and only the fit workers would be assigned duties.
The home and tribal affairs department of K-P said in a notification that the government allowed all sectors to operate, except marriage halls/marquees and educational institutions from August 10 (Monday).
According to the notification, all administrative departments had been directed to prepare SOPs for the businesses/establishments falling under their jurisdictions and ensure their rigorous implementation. It warned that “stringent action” would be taken against the violators.
Arrangements for Muharram
As the government opened various sectors of the economy, Planning Minister Asad Umar, while chairing a review meeting of the NCOC on the measures to ensure public health and safety during Muharram, stressed the need for more tests in the upcoming month.
“The track and trace strategy should be followed to identify the coronavirus patients. Tests should be conducted of people came into contact with more people,” Omar said. He also informed the provinces about the steps taken to tackle the coronavirus challenge.
Religious Affairs Minister Noorul Haq Qadri briefed the forum that assistance was being sought from Ulema for formulating comprehensive protocols and health guidelines during Muharram procession. The provinces apprised the NCOC of the plan of action post-opening up of various sectors.
WITH INPUT FROM OUR PESHAWAR CORRESPONDENT