Punjab, K-P, AJK impose lockdown during Eid holidays
Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces as well as Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) announced on Wednesday the imposition of lockdowns during the Eidul Fitr holidays in light of the decisions taken by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) late last month.
The announcements come as the country crossed another milestone in the fight against coronavirus pandemic, administering Covid vaccine to more than 200,000 people in a single-day amid the ongoing third wave of the pandemic, driven by the UK strain of the virus.
The third wave, which emerged in the first week of March, saw more than 5,000 new infections and over 100 fatalities every day for past many weeks. Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and AJK are the worst affected federating units of the country by the pandemic.
Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid warned on Wednesday the next 15 to 20 days were “very important” in the government’s efforts to bring the coronavirus situation under control. She urged the people to celebrate Eid with simplicity and to follow precautionary measures.
Rashid’s warning came during a meeting at the Civil Secretariat in Lahore which decided to impose a province-wide lockdown from May 8 to restrict public movement, during the Eid holidays in order to contain the spread of the pandemic.
The Punjab government notified that during the lockdown, public transport will be suspended while all tourist spots will be closed. Checkpoints will be established at entry and exit points of the cities, to be manned by police, Rangers and army officials.
Separately, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government issued its own notification about the restrictions to be put in place during the Eid holidays in accordance with the NCOC decisions, including closure of tourist spots, restrictions on public transport etc.
The provincial government’s notification said that tandoors, milk shops, takeaway food, e-commerce, utility services will remain open 24/7 but grocery shops, bakeries, and sweet marts will close by 6pm during May 8 to 16 period.
A separate notification issued by the AJK home department in Muzaffarabad said that the lockdown will be imposed from May 8 to 16 as a “mobility control measure” during which all businesses and shops will be closed, except those dealing in essential services and commodities.
The businesses that have been allowed to operate round the clock include pharmacies, medical facilities and vaccination centres, fuel stations, tyre repair shops, tandoors and dairy shops, takeaways, e-commerce, utility services, telecommunications networks and the media.
The AJK notification said that vegetable, fruit, chicken and meat shops, grocery stores, bakeries and sweet marts, will also remain open on a daily basis but these are required to close by 6pm.
The NCOC announced last month a series of restrictions during the Eid holidays and the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Aitekaf, Taraweeh, Jamatul Wida and Eidul Fitr congregations. The government has also announced an unusual 6-day Eid holidays this year.
Planning Minister Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC, had said recently that stricter precautionary measures along with an expanded vaccination drive have had a positive impact. He added that adherence to the SOPs – an essential measure to contain Covid spread – has doubled in recent days.
The vaccination drive which started in the first week of February has picked up pace since then. On Tuesday, Umar said that the more than 164,000 jabs were administered. The number exceeded 200,000 on Wednesday, he said in a tweet on Wednesday.
Besides, Umar said, the total number of people registering themselves for the vaccine had also crossed 5 million. He encouraged everyone over the age of 40 years to register early for their jab and reminded the masses that safety measures should be followed to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
The NCOC, which serves as the nerve centre of the government’s unified anti-pandemic strategy, said that the national tally of active Covid-19 cases declined to 84,480, as 4,113 more people tested positive for the virus while 5,665 people recovered from the disease during the last 24 hours.
In its daily update, the NCOC also reported that 119 patients, of them 106 in hospitals, including 38 on ventilators, died during the past 24 hours. It added that most of the deaths occurred in Punjab, 58, followed by 43 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The pandemic first emerged in the country in February last year. The pandemic started ebbing in July after seeing its peak in June. However, the cases spiked towards the end of the year dubbed by the experts as the second wave. The third wave of the disease started in March.
Since the start of the pandemic, according to the NCOC, a total of 841,636 people were affected –310,616 in Punjab; 287,643 in Sindh; 121,099 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; 76,696 in Islamabad Capital Territory; 22,776 in Balochistan; 17,465 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 5,341 in Gilgit-Baltistan.
As of Wednesday, the nationwide death toll stood at 18,429 – 8,741 in Punjab; 4,687 in Sindh; 3,466 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; 698 in Islamabad Capital Territory; 239 in Balochistan; 491 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and 107 in Gilgit-Baltistan.
The NCOC said that so far, 738,727 people have recovered from the disease, depicting a healthy recovery ratio of over 90%. At present, it added, 5,741 patients were admitted to 631 hospitals across the country equipped with Covid facilities, including 676 on ventilators.
The maximum ventilators were occupied in four major areas—Lahore 69%, Multan 77%, Mardan 59% and Bahawalpur 58%. The maximum oxygen beds were also occupied in four major areas—Gujranwala 55%,, Swabi 67%, Peshawar 62% and Swat 57%.
WITH INPUT FROM APP