ISLAMABAD: Pakistan relaxed more coronavirus restrictions on Wednesday amid confidence the third wave had been largely overcome and a stepped up inoculation drive that is seeing over 300,000 doses being doled out per day.
The decision was taken at a National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) meeting chaired by Planning Minister Asad Umar and co-chaired by National Coordinator Lt-Gen Hamood uz Zaman Khan.
In the NCOC meeting, a comprehensive review of the vaccination process and implementation of Covid standard operating procedures (SOPs) was taken.
It comes as Pakistan’s coronavirus test positivity ratio continued to decline, with a little over 3 per cent testing positive. The country recorded 77 Covid-linked deaths and 1,118 fresh infections. A total of 936,131 cases have been detected so far, while the death toll is 21,453.
The NCOC decided that the countrywide mass vaccination campaign will be run under a three-pronged strategy. Vaccination is voluntary by all citizens of the country, but it is mandatory for public and private sector employees. Public servants have to get vaccinated by the end of June.
As the vaccine campaign gains pace, so is scepticism. With that in mind, the NCOC is also considering the introduction of certain incentives in various sectors to encourage vaccination.
Vaccination centres will be open from 8am to 10pm daily from tomorrow (Friday), and will be closed on Sundays. From tomorrow onwards anyone above age 18 can walk in to any facility to get vaccinated.
The NCOC is also in the process of developing IT-based solutions for the verification of vaccine certificates, which will be completed by end June 2021.
The NCOC also announced relaxing Covid curbs in a raft of areas beginning June 15. The two-day-a-week closure of markets has been reduced to one day. The specific choice of day has been left to the discretion of federating units.
Gyms have been allowed to partially open to members who are vaccinated, while some non-contact sports have been permitted. The ban on contact sports like karate, boxing, mixed martial arts, rugby, Kabbadi, wrestling, water polo remains.
Restrictions on festivals, cultural and other events will also remain, and the closure of shrines and cinemas will also continue. The existing 50 per cent work-from-home policy will also be relaxed to 100 per cent office attendance.
The two days weekly ban on inter-provincial transport will be lifted, while the restriction regarding 50 per cent occupancy for public transport will be relaxed to 70 per cent occupancy.
“Current restrictions already announced by NCOC regarding recreation, education sector, mask wearing SOP, railways and inbound passengers policy will remain in place till further orders,” it said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Pakistan administered its ten millionth coronavirus vaccine dose. “It is propitious to achieve the ten million dose] vaccination milestone, but we have set a total target of 70 million people [vaccinated] till December 2021. So, there is more room for enhancing our vaccination numbers,” the planning minister said at a media briefing.
The NCOC chair said about 350,000 people were registering to get vaccinated every day, whereas over 300,000 individuals were being administered the first dose on a daily basis, “which is a promising trend”, he said. About
Umar appealed to the entire nation to get themselves vaccinated as the decisions to lift restrictions on various sectors were subject to the pace of the national vaccination drive.
“We have to protect the livelihoods of masses facing stress and threat of unemployment due to Covid and also ensure health security of the masses from the pandemic,” Umar said.
He said the measures taken during the third wave of the contagion were bearing fruit as the disease had undergone a persistent decline since Eidul Fitr and its impact had been visible.
Despite all that, he said there were over 3,000 coronavirus patients under treatment in critical care which was an alarming indicator, and demanded the masses to remain watchful of the situation and ensure their vaccination.
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