NCOC announces stricter restrictions for cities with high Covid positivity ratio – Pakistan

Federal planning minister Asad Umar on Monday announced revised restrictions for a number of cities as the fourth wave of the coronavirus continues its momentum in the country.

Addressing a press conference after a meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), he said the government took “targeted and staggered” decisions to curb the virus’s spread after much thought and deliberation in order to minimise the impact on the poor sections.

He added that people’s livelihoods needed to be taken care of as well as their health.

Describing the current Covid-19 situation, he said the virus had spread rapidly in the past week, with cases, positivity ratio and hospitalisations all witnessing a spike.

According to the minister, the latest decisions taken with the permission of Prime Minister Imran Khan would include:

    Scaling back market closure timings from 10pm to 8pm
    Closure of indoor dining; outdoor dining (till 10pm), takeaway and delivery will continue
    Resumption of 50 per cent work-from-home policy
    Public transport to operate with 50pc occupancy
    Two days in a week to be observed as safe days with provinces free to choose

The new restrictions, which will last from August 3 to Aug 31, will apply to Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan in Punjab; Peshawar and Abbottabad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh (after the current partial lockdown in Sindh ends on Aug 8); Islamabad; Muzaffarabad and Mirpur in Azad Kashmir; and Gilgit and Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Explaining the rationale for restrictions such as on indoor dining, Umar, the head of the NCOC, said: “Unfortunately the permission we had given for indoor dining, mandating that only those who are vaccinated [would be allowed], it wasn’t being applied and compliance and implementation was very weak.

“Our administration was also saying that it was not possible to go and check in every restaurant whether only vaccinated people were being allowed; that is why indoor dining is being banned.”

The new restrictions come after the Sindh government instituted a province-wide partial lockdown on Friday from July 31 to Aug 8 due to the rising number of coronavirus cases.

The fourth wave of the pandemic has continued its upward trajectory in Pakistan, with 5,026 cases reported on Sunday in a 24-hour period — the highest number of daily cases in the country since April 29 when 5,112 infections were reported.

The latest surge is blamed on the Delta variant, originally detected in India some months ago, along with lax social attitudes and increased activity around Eidul Azha.