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Incentivizing ‘Return to Normal Life’

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of a market in Peshawar. Twitter

NCOC announces easing of COVID-19 SOPs in cities in accordance with vaccination progress

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Sunday announced that the government will ease COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) in cities with high vaccination rates to incentivize inoculations among residents.

“Considering better vaccination status of populace, forum decided to ‘incentivize high vaccination cities through relaxations in NPIs [non-pharmaceutical interventions]/return to normal life’,” read a statement issued after a meeting of the NCOC on Nov. 12. It said that the meeting had reviewed the prevalence of COVID-19 in the country, as well as the vaccination status of different cities nationwide.

It said the easing of SOPs had been decided in the following cities on the basis of their vaccination progress:

Excellent vaccination progress: Cities with 50 percent or more of their eligible populations completely vaccinated. Under this criterion, Narowal, Jehlum, Mandi Bahauddin, Peshawar, Bhimber, Bagh, Mirpur, Skardu, Gilgit, Ghizer and Islamabad will see movement restrictions relaxed.

Good vaccination progress: Cities with 40-50 percent vaccination targets met. Under this criterion, Rawalpindi, Sargodha, Sialkot, Mianwali, Kallar Kahar, Hafizabad, Rahim Yar Khan, Karachi, Chitral, Charsadda, Balakot, Jehlum Valley, Rawalakot, Muzaffarabad, Neelum, Hunza and Kharmang will see movement restrictions relaxed.

The rest of the country has been described as having reported low vaccination progress with less than 40 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated and will retain a bulk of the existing restrictions.

Per the NCOC statement, there will be no specific NPIs for public gatherings or business timings in cities reporting excellent vaccination progress though mask mandates would continue and mandatory vaccinations would be required for availing dining services, and attending wedding receptions. Meanwhile, intracity public transport will be allowed to operate with 100 percent capacity and intercity transport at 80 percent capacity.

Similarly, good vaccination progress cities will have limits on indoor gatherings increased from 300 to 500 and up to 1,000 individuals will be allowed in outdoor gatherings. Indoor dining occupancy will be increased from 50 to 70 percent, while markets will be allowed to continue operations till 10 p.m. All types of transport will be allowed to operate at 80 percent capacity and wedding receptions will be allowed to have 500 guests (indoor) and 1,000 guests (outdoor).

For the rest of the country, indoor gatherings will be restricted to 300, and outdoor to 1,000. Indoor dining and amusement parks will operate at 50 percent capacity, and outdoor dining will be restricted till midnight.

The NPIs, as announced, would remain effective from Nov. 16 to Nov. 30, read the NCOC statement. It said that a review would be conducted on Nov. 29 and new measures announced, as necessary.

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