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March 23, 2021

Curbs on business, public transport as corona intensifies

Top Story

March 23, 2021

ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: In view of a surge in coronavirus cases in the country, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Monday issued renewed standard operating procedures (SOPs) to contain the virus, saying that these would be implemented with immediate effect.

As per the new guidelines, all businesses will only be allowed to operate five days a week, while all commercial activities will be closed by 8:00pm in areas with a positivity ratio greater than 8 percent.

Under the chairmanship of Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, the NCOC meeting was held on Monday and was attended by the chief secretaries of all provinces via video link.

“In the NCOC meeting we decided to increase restrictions of activities contributing to sharp increase in COVID positivity. The provincial & ICT administration were also directed to tighten implementation of SOPs and crackdown on violations which are taking place,” Asad Umar said in a tweet.

The forum expressed grave concern over the current COVID-19 situation in the country and unanimously agreed to implement some high impact interventions in cities and districts with positivity greater than 8 percent to contain the spread of the disease.

In cities with a coronavirus positivity ratio of less than 8 percent, non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs), which are already in place, will continue to be enforced based on risk assessment and disease prevalence.

According to a notification issued in this regard, implementation of broader lockdowns with stringent enforcement protocols based on risk assessment will be carried out. No mobility will be allowed except for emergencies. All type of indoor dining will be closed. However, outdoor dining will be permitted till 10:00pm. Takeaways will be allowed. Closure of all commercial activities (less essential services) will be ensured by 8:00pm.

Two safe days per week will be observed. Choice of days will be at the discretion of the federating units. Gatherings with an upper limit of 300 persons will be allowed with strict adherence to COVID-19 SOPs. However, all types of indoor gatherings involving cultural, musical/religious or miscellaneous events will be banned. Complete closure of cinemas and shrines will continue to be enforced. Complete ban on contact sports, festivals, cultural and other events will be observed.

Outdoor wedding functions till 10:00pm with an upper limit of 300 guests will be allowed with strict adherence to COVID-19 SOPs (event duration two hours only). No indoor functions will be allowed. Complete closure of amusement parks, however, walking/jogging tracks will remain open with strict adherence to COVID-19 SOPs. 50 percent work-from-home policy will continue (including all public/private offices and courts).

Inter-city public transport will operate at 50 percent of capacity, while rail service will operate at 70 percent of capacity. Compulsory mask-wearing will be ensured by all federating units while incorporating innovative measures for enforcement. Reduced presence at courts (city, district, high courts and SC).

Stringent protocols for tourism in GB, KP, AJK and touristic places elsewhere will be observed. Sentinel testing sites at entry points/selected locations will be established. Mass media coverage highlighting punitive actions will be ensured.

These high impact interventions will be implemented immediately and will remain enforced till April 11, 2021. A review of the situation will be carried out at the NCOC on April 07, 2021.

The statement further said that a review of decisions related to the education sector, enforced with effect from March 10, 2021, will be carried out on tomorrow (Wednesday) at the NCOC.

Meanwhile, the national tally of total active COVID-19 cases on Monday was recorded 33,070 as 3,669 more people tested positive for the deadly virus and 1,686 people recovered from the disease during the last 24 hours.

Twenty corona patients died during past 24 hours, who were under treatment in hospitals, according to the latest update issued by the NCOC. Most of the deaths had occurred in Punjab, followed by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

The situation in KP is getting worse with each passing day in terms of transmission of the coronavirus as the infectious disease claimed 10 more lives and infected 482 people on Monday.

KP has so far reported 8,0519 positive cases and the number is rapidly rising due to lack of awareness and poor implementation of the SOPs at public places. According to officials, there has been an unprecedented rise in COVID-19 patients in the past few weeks as the public sector hospitals started receiving more patients, most of them having multiple health complications caused by viral infection.

In KP, with 10 more losses, the number of fatalities caused by the fatal disease reached 2,225. Peshawar lost more people than any other place in the province. Of 10 fatalities, seven were reported from Peshawar alone. Peshawar has far lost 1,173 people as a result of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mehmood said that the third coronavirus wave is serious which requires careful decision. All education/health ministers will meet tomorrow at the NCOC to take a decision regarding opening or further closure of educational institutions.

He was speaking at a meeting at the Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The minister said that closure of education institutions was a difficult decision as the previous lock down has caused already heavy loss to the students. He said that closure of educational institutions shifts the focus of students. He said that Ministry of Education wants to open educational institutions.

The Punjab government has also ordered closure of all commercial activities, establishments and areas by 8:00pm on weekdays and complete closure on weekends across the province.