Notification calls for implementing broader lockdowns for affected areas, barring any movement except for emergencies
The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Wednesday issued revised guidelines for the month of Ramzan in a bid to curb the spread of the ongoing third wave of the novel coronavirus.
According to a notification, the new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for non-pharmaceutical interventions were decided upon during a “special session” of the NCOC convened in view of the prevailing COVID situation. It said that the measures would come into effect from April 14 (Wednesday), and would be reviewed after 10 days. It also stressed that the suggested guidelines were a “baseline,” and federating authorities were free to implement ever harsher measures based on their particular needs.
The new guidelines call for implementing broader lockdowns with stricter implementation, with residents of affected areas not allowed any movement except for emergencies. It said Saturday and Sunday would be observed as “closed days” nationwide, while operational hours of commercial areas would be from sehr till 6 p.m. daily. Essential services such as grocery stores, pharmacies and petrol pumps are exempt from these limits.
The guidelines reiterated a complete ban on all kinds of indoor and outdoor gatherings, including all sporting and cultural events. Similarly, cinemas and shrines would remain shut, as would amusement parks, barring jogging tracks that are allowed to remain functional with strict adherence to SOPs.
While stressing that all types of indoor dining were banned, the notification said that “outdoor dining will be allowed from iftar till midnight” with strict SOPs. Takeaway and delivery will be allowed from iftar will sehr, it added.
The NCOC reiterated that there would continue to be a complete ban on interprovincial transport every Saturday and Sunday, adding that this would continue until April 25. However, it added, the decision would be reviewed on April 20.
Under the new guidelines, a 50 percent work-from-home policy would continue at all public and private offices. Intercity public transport would also continue to operate at 50 percent capacity, while rail travel would operate at 70 percent capacity. Pakistan Railways, it said, would operate additional trains to avoid overcrowding during Ramzan.
Prayers and tourism
For taravih prayers during Ramzan, the NCOC said that they should be organized in open spaces wherever possible. It urged civil administrators to engage with ulema for assistance in enforcing SOPs during Ramzan.
The NCOC also directed stringent protocols for tourism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan, Pakistan-administered Kashmir and elsewhere. “Sentinel testing sites at every point/selected locations [will] be established,” it said.
The NCOC stressed to administrators that mask compliance must be stringently enforced, adding that there should be mass media coverage highlighting punitive actions for anyone found violating the SOPs.