Indoor, outdoor gatherings banned with immediate effect: NCOC
Complete ban on weddings from April 5; decision on inter-provincial transport to be taken following provinces' input
The government on Saturday announced a blanket ban on all indoor and outdoor gatherings from next month to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic, as the third wave of the contagion raged across the country.
This decision has been taken in a meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) held in Islamabad. Planning Minister Asad Umar chaired the meeting, which was also attended by all the provincial chief secretaries.
The meeting expressed grave concern over the rapid spread of the pandemic. It was decided that there would be a complete ban on marriage ceremonies – both indoor and outdoor – from April 5. However, the provinces could implement restrictions in early time frame as per the situation on the ground.
According to the decisions, the ban would also apply to all sorts of events such as social, cultural, political, sports and other meets, while the forum would provide updated hotspot maps to the provinces for enforcement of expanded lockdowns from Monday.
Various other options for stemming the disease were also discussed in the meeting, including restrictions on the inter-provincial transport. It was decided that the final decision in this regard would be taken after getting data from provinces about air, rail and road passengers.
The NCOC directed the provinces to ensure that the vaccination targets set by the forum are met in a timely manner. The chief secretaries were also directed to strictly implement the coronavirus-related standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Later, taking to microblogging website, Twitter, the NCOC head Asad Umar said that the new stringent measures had been taken in view of the fast spread of the Covid-19, and urged the people to cooperate with the local administration in enforcing the SOPs.
“Held ncoc meeting today with provincial chief secretaries & reviewed the situation. Based on continuing increase in disease spread & fast pace at which hospital fill up is taking place, particularly critical covid patients, decided to further tighten restrictions,” the minister tweeted.
“Chief secretaries have been advised to ensure strict compliance of the sop's. Would request everyone to cooperate with the administration as they are enforcing these sop's for safeguarding us,” Asad Umar said in another tweet.
Coronavirus first emerged in the country in February last year. The first wave of the disease started ebbing in July but the cases spiked again towards the end of the year, which the experts dubbed the second wave.
There is a fresh increase in the new infections since the advent of March. On March 12, Umar had attributed the spike to the UK strain of the virus, calling it the third wave of the pandemic, which saw 73,000 cases so far in March.
A couple of weeks ago, the government had said that the Covid-19 restrictions would continue for at least three more weeks, including "broader lockdowns" in high-risk areas and closure of educational institutions in virus hotspots until April 11.
On Sunday, the NCOC said in its daily update on the disease prevalence that the national tally of active Covid-19 cases reached 44,447 as 4,767 more people tested positive for the infection, while 57 patients, 53 of them in hospitals, including 20 on ventilators, died during the last 24 hours.
Among the active cases, it added, 3,631 virus patients were admitted to various hospitals across the country, while 2,647 people recovered from the disease during the last 24 hours, taking the total recoveries to 595,929 so far.
Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 654,591 cases have been detected -- 12,367 in AJK, 19,497 in Balochistan, 4,999 in G-B, 55,594 in ICT, 84,609 in K-P, 212,918 in Punjab and 264,607 in Sindh. The nationwide death toll stood at 14,215 -- 4,491 in Sindh, 6,229 in Punjab, 2,283 in K-P 559 in ICT, 206 in Balochistan, 103 in G-B and 344 in AJK.
Held ncoc meeting today with provincial chief secretaries & reviewed the situation. Based on continuing increase in disease spread & fast pace at which hospital fill up is taking place, particularly critical covid patients, decided to further tighten restrictions.— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) March 28, 2021
He added that chief secretaries had been advised to ensure strict compliance of the SOPs, urging people to "cooperate with the administration as they are enforcing these SOP's for safeguarding us."
Chief secretaries have been advised to ensure strict compliance of the sop's. Would request everyone to cooperate with the administration as they are enforcing these sop's for safeguarding us— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) March 28, 2021
Pakistan's Covid-19 cases reached a nine-month high the past week with over 4,500 cases being reported consecutively.
About two weeks ago, Umar, in an interview to a private TV channel, had confirmed that the third wave of Covid-19 had started in Pakistan. He had attributed the rising number of cases to the virus' UK strain.