NCOC restricts all commercial activities to close by 8pm amid virus upsurge
NCOC bans all indoor gatherings; orders two-day per week market closure; restricts commercial activities till 8pm
The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Monday decided to increase restrictions with implementation of high-impact interventions in cities and districts having high positivity ratio till April 11 in a bid to curb the rising trend of cases during the ongoing third wave of Covid-19 in the country.
The decisions were taken in a meeting of the NCOC, the nerve centre of the government’s synchronised response to the global pandemic, with Planning Minister Asad Umar in the chair. The provincial chief secretaries also attended the meeting via video link.
The meeting expressed grave concern over the current coronavirus situation and unanimously agreed to implement the measures in cities and districts with over 8% positivity ratio to stop the virus from spreading.
However, in areas where with the positivity ratio was less than 8%, the ongoing non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) would continue to be enforced based on risk assessment and virus prevalence, a statement issued after the meeting said.
The measures include “implementation of broader lockdowns with stringent enforcement protocols based on risk assessment”, the statement said. “No mobility will be allowed except emergencies.”
It said that indoor dining will be banned and outdoor dining would be restricted till 10pm only, adding that takeaways will, however, continue.
Indoor gatherings of any sort will also be banned, while outdoor marriage functions will be allowed for two hours until 10pm with guests restricted to 300.
The forum ordered closures of shrines, cinema houses, contact sports, festival, cultural and other events. Amusement parks will also be closed but walking or jogging tracks would remain open subject to strict adherence to Covid-related standard operating procedures (SOPs).
In the NCOC meeting this morning we decided to increase restrictions of activities contributing to sharp increase in covid positivity. The provincial & ICT administration were also directed to tighten implementation of sop's and crackdown on violations which are taking place.— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) March 22, 2021
The forum decided to implement closure of all commercial activities – less essential services – by 8pm and agreed to observe two safe days per week when no commercial or business centre would operate. The provinces have been allowed to choose the days as per their requirement.
The meeting agreed that the policy of 50% staff working from home policy would continue in all public and private offices as well as courts. Also the intercity public transport would be limited to operate at 50% of its available capacity but the rail service was allowed to operate at 70% of its capacity.
There was a consensus in the meeting that compulsory mask wearing would be ensured by all federating units. The forum directed the provinces to ensure reduced presence at courts because large gatherings of people could become a potential threat of virus proliferation.
Owing to the impending tourism season in the northern areas of the country, the meeting decided that the federating units would implement stringent protocols for tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and tourist spots elsewhere.
Moreover, sentinel testing sites at entry points or selected locations were to be established, the statement said. The forum underscored the importance of media coverage in highlighting the implementation of the high-impact interventions.
"These high-impact interventions will be implemented forthwith and will remain enforced till April 11. The review will be carried out at the NCOC on April 7," the NCOC said. It added that the review of decisions related to the education sector would be carried out on Wednesday (tomorrow).
Later, Umar took to the microblogging website Twitter, saying that the meeting increased the Covid-related restrictions because of a sharp rise in the positivity ratio witnessed in the country during the past few weeks.
“In the NCOC meeting this morning, we decided to increase restrictions of activities contributing to a sharp increase in Covid positivity. The provincial and ICT [Islamabad] administrations were also directed to tighten implementation of SOPs and crackdown on violations, which are taking place,” Umar tweeted.
The country is in the grip of a third wave of the coronavirus pandemic, which the NCOC chief had attributed to the UK strain of the contagion. Last week, Umar said that the UK variant spread faster than the original strain of the virus.
The coronavirus first emerged in the country in February, 2020. The first wave of the virus started ebbing in July after witnessing a peak of more than 5,000 cases in a day in June. The single-day tally showed a rising trend again towards the end of 2020, dubbed by experts as the second wave.
In February, the number of cases had come down to over 1,000. However, the tally started rising with the advent of March. In the first 10 days of this month, the single-day tally of new cases hovered above 1,500 but then the trajectory kept going up.
For the past five days, the single-day tally of new cases had been staying above 3,500. On Monday, the NCOC said in its daily update on the pandemic situation that 3,669 new coronavirus cases were detected in the past 24 hours.
More than half of all the new cases have been detected in Punjab, according to the data issued separately by the provincial health department spokesperson, raising the province’s caseload to nearly 200,000.
The NCOC said that the national tally of active Covid-19 cases was 33,070 on Monday, including 2,955 corona patients being admitted to various hospitals across the country. It added 1,686 people recovered from the virus during the last 24 hours.
The daily bulletin said that 20 patients – eight in Punjab, seven in K-P, two in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and three in AJK – died in hospitals during the past 24 hours, adding that three of them were on ventilators.
Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 630,471 cases were detected – 11,704 in AJK, 19,342 in Balochistan, 4,972 in G-B, 52,086 in ICT, 80,037 in K-P, 199,040 in Punjab and 263,290 in Sindh, according to the official data. Of them, 583,538 people have recovered so far.
As of Monday, the nationwide death toll stood at 13,863 -- 4,479 in Sindh 5,982 in Punjab, 2,215 in K-P, 545 in ICT, 203 in Balochistan, 103 in G-B and 336 in AJK. In the last 24 hours, no death occurred in Sindh, Balochistan and G-B. (WITH INPUT FROM APP)