Rest of the country to continue with existing restrictions, announces Planning Minister Asad Umar
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Wednesday announced that it will ease restrictions in 8 cities where at least 40 percent of citizens over 15 have been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
“There are currently 8 cities that have either achieved, are about to achieve, or have crossed the 40 percent vaccination target,” Planning Minister Asad Umar announced in a press conference with Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan from Islamabad. Residents of these cities—Skardu, Gilgit, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Islamabad, Quetta, Peshawar, Rawalpindi—would face less restrictions from Oct. 1, he said, such as:
- Indoor events can have 300 people, up from 200 earlier. Outdoor events can have up to 1,000 participants, up from an earlier 400.
- Shrines and imambargahs can resume normal operations, though local administrations will ensure only fully vaccinated people are allowed to visit them.
- Cinemas will be allowed to resume operations in these cities for fully vaccinated people
- Indoor dining can resume operations 7 days a week and will no longer require any “off days.” Wedding receptions in these cities can also be organized 7 days a week
The rest of the country, he said, would continue to operate under existing restrictions until Oct. 15. “I urge the residents of cities not in this list to reach out to their representatives and question why their cities are lagging behind [in vaccination],” he said. “If public pressure rises to ease restrictions, then we hope to see a boost in vaccination rates nationwide,” he added.
The planning minister noted that the government’s policy had always been focused on expanding or reducing movement restrictions based on the spread of the pandemic. “We have imposed strict measures in areas with high incidence of the virus, while easing them in areas with low incidence,” he said, adding that the entire world was now realizing that the best way to overcome the pandemic was through vaccines.
“Until a majority of the population has been vaccinated, we have to continue movement restrictions, which can impact businesses and livelihoods,” he said, emphasizing that while the vaccines would not eradicate COVID-19, they would help reduce its threat to manageable levels.
Referring to air travel, the planning minister said that—as announced earlier—both domestic and international flights would be restricted to fully vaccinated individuals from Oct. 1. “Airlines will be allowed to offer in-flight meals from Oct. 1, as from that only fully vaccinated adults over 18, and partially vaccinated minors between 15 and 18, would be allowed to travel by air,” he said.
According to the NCOC, from Oct. 1, unvaccinated individuals would not be allowed to enter restaurants; marriage halls or shopping malls. You would also be barred from all forms of air travel and would not be permitted to work in any educational institution.
Summarizing the country’s vaccination drive, Umar said it had been largely successful so far. “Over 80 million doses have been administered already,” he said, adding that more than 27 million citizens had been fully vaccinated thus far. “We saw a small dip in vaccination during September, and that can be explained by our healthcare workers being busy with our polio drive,” he said, adding that the NCOC expected the vaccination drive to gather steam in the coming days.
Dr. Sultan, meanwhile, said that 12 percent of Pakistan’s entire population had been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. “Twenty percent of citizens over 15 have been fully vaccinated,” he said, urging all Pakistanis to get vaccinated as soon as possible.
“Please get your children over 12 to get vaccinated,” he said. “We also need women and men to get vaccinated at equal rates because the pandemic cannot be overcome if everyone isn’t getting vaccinated,” he said, and urged people to avoid misinformation and avail the “safe” vaccines available at all designated centers.
Referring to the polio drive, the SAPM said it was very promising that only one new case had been reported in the past 8 months. “This success must be sustained,” he said and urged parents to ensure their children were inoculated against the poliovirus.