The federal government on Monday revived several coronavirus-related strict restrictions as the ongoing fourth wave turned dangerous with the single-day tally of new cases staying close to 5,000, depicting an alarming national positivity ratio of 8.61%.
In the wake of rising numbers of Covid patients, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) – the nerve centre of the government’s anti-pandemic strategy – decided to re-impose certain restrictions in selected cities for a period of one month from Tuesday (today) till August 31.
Announcing the revised guidelines, NCOC chief and Planning Minister Asad Umar said that the government was taking “targeted and staggered” decisions to curb the spread of the pandemic – now mostly fuelled by the highly transmissible Delta variant of coronavirus.
“After approval of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the NCOC has decided” to impose certain restrictions in almost all the major cities of the country, where the market hours have been cut and office attendance reduced to 50%, Umar told a press conference.
The minister, flanked by Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, said that the cites under restrictions would be Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Peshawar, Abbottabad, Karachi, Hyderabad, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Gilgit and Skardu.
Umar, who heads the NCOC, told reporters the Sindh government had already imposed smart lockdown in Karachi and Hyderabad till August 8, therefore, the measures announced by the federal government would be applied there from August 9.
Under the restrictions, markets, which were allowed to remain open till 10 pm, would now again close at 8 pm in these selected cities. They will observe two off days in a week instead of one. “The off days will be decided by the provinces,” Umar said.
Furthermore, the government withdrew the permission granted for indoor dining for the vaccinated people because of very weak compliance seen at the restaurants. It was decided that outdoor dining would be allowed till 10 pm and take-away service till 12 midnight.
With respect to offices, the planning minister pointed out that for the month of August 50% attendance would be allowed in all public and private offices, while the remaining 50% employees would work from home.
“The prime minister is totally against imposing complete lockdown from the very beginning of the pandemic. Under the directions of the prime minister, the government developed a policy of smart lockdown which proved successful in the first three waves of Covid,” Umar said.
“The same policy is being adopted in the fourth wave as well,” he added. “In order to ensure their [daily-wage earners] livelihoods and to save them from the pandemic, the government has developed a balanced and targeted lockdown strategy.”
The NCOC chief warned that the number of Covid patients was rising, especially in big cities, and so was hospitalisation. “The minister urged the people to get themselves vaccinated as early as possible to keep themselves safe from the Indian-origin Delta variant of the virus.
“As per the data, the people who got the first dose of Covid vaccine were three times safer than those who are not inoculated, while the people with both doses are three times safer than those who received only first jab,” he said.
Earlier, the NCOC said in its daily update that the national tally of active Covid-19 cases rose to 73,213 on Monday, as 4,858 more people tested positive for the virus, while 1,361 people recovered from the disease during the last 24 hours.
Among the active cases, the update said, 3,889 patients were admitted to 639 Covid-dedicated hospitals across the country, including 3,441 patients in critical condition. It added that 233 were brought to the hospitals during the past 24 hours, while 318 patients were on ventilators.
The forum said that 40 patients, 38 of whom in hospitals, including 19 on ventilators, died during the past 24 hours. It added that most of the deaths, 20, occurred in Sindh, followed by 8 in Punjab. The nationwide death toll from the disease rose to 23,462.
Since the pandemic broke out in February 2020, the national caseload of the contagion has risen to 1,039,695. Among them, 943,020 people have recovered from the disease so far across Pakistan making it a significant recovery ratio of over 90%.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)
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