Covid curbs relaxed in 18 hotspots
Asad Umar says unvaccinated people to face more restrictions
The government announced on Tuesday the opening of educational institutions as it lifted additional Covid-induced restrictions in 18 coronavirus hotspots in Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkwha provinces out of a total 24.
Planning Minister Asad Umar, who also supervised the national anti-Covid strategy, told a press conference that the Covid-related curbs would be relaxed gradually, but warned that the people who had not been vaccinated could face even tougher restrictions.
Umar heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the unified government effort to stem the spread of the pandemic. After chairing an NCOC meeting, the minister announced the lifting of lockdown in 18 districts from September 16.
The lockdown in the remaining six districts – Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Sargodha, Gujrat and Bannu – had been extended till September 22, he added. “Due to very high risk of Covid in 24 districts, the government had put more restrictions from September 4 to 15 to avoid further spread of delta variant of the pandemic,” he said.
“In the six districts, some relaxations are being given as schools would open from September 16 with 50% attendance,” he added. “Similarly, the inter-city transport will also resume with 50% passenger capacity,” he added.
“While the timing for outdoor restaurants has been extended from 10 pm to 12 am, indoor dining will still be banned. The outdoor gathering with maximum 400 people has been allowed,” the minister told reporters.
Umar said that the pressure of Covid patients on hospitals was still high as more than 5,300 were either on oxygen or ventilator in the intensive care. During the last few weeks, he added, the demand for oxygen for medical purposes had increased by 100% due to rising number of Covid patients.
Though, the “situation is comparatively better now, the danger has not subsided”, the minister said, as he stressed the need for accelerating the vaccination process. He warned that the areas with low percentage of vaccination would again be put under lockdown.
“We want to completely lift all lockdown as soon as possible so that the situation gets normal in the country,” he said. “The government is spending Rs200 billion on Covid vaccine, the people should get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
After September 30, the minister said, the unvaccinated people would not be allowed to travel or to enter the shopping malls. Similarly, he added, the unvaccinated people would not be allowed to enter marriage halls, indoor dining, restaurants or other similar gatherings.
In the education institutions, all the staff, who had not been fully vaccinated would also not be allowed to continue their work after September 30. “Our target is to completely vaccinate at least 40% of the eligible population across the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, the NCOC has directed the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to take action against those involved in providing fake vaccination certificates to the people. According to the NCOC, the FIA has enhanced its investigation circle and started crackdown against such people.
Separately, the NCOC said in its daily update of the disease that the national tally of active Covid-19 cases fell to 85,886 on Monday, as 2,580 more people tested positive for the deadly virus while 7,240 people made full recovery during the past 24 hours. The national positivity ratio also fell slightly to 5.44%.
The forum also said that 78 patients died during the past 24 hours, raising the nationwide death toll from the disease to 26,865. As of Monday, the national caseload of the infectious disease since it first emerged in the country in February 2020 rose to 1,210,082, of whom 1,097,416 people have fully recovered.
(WITH INPUT FROM APP)