New guidelines, including ban on indoor dining; 50 percent attendance in offices, to come into effect on Aug. 3 and continue till Aug. 31 in bid to curb spread of fourth wave
Planning Minister Asad Umar on Monday announced that the government was re-imposing several mobility restrictions in major cities to curb the spread of the ongoing fourth wave of the coronavirus, noting that there had been an “alarming” surge in new infections over the past week.
“We are aware that any restrictions can have an adverse impact on the livelihoods of the common man,” he told a press conference alongside Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan. “Thus all our decision-making is dedicated to a targeted approach in line with the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan,” he said, adding that this strategy had helped Pakistan overcome three waves of the pandemic already.
“We are not merely concerned with public health,” Umar stressed. “We have to worry about the large population of daily-wagers, who suffer the most from any lockdowns,” he added.
The minister, who also heads the National Command and Operation Center overseeing Pakistan’s response to the pandemic, warned that authorities had witnessed an “alarming” surge in infections and deaths caused by COVID-19 over the past week. “The number of people requiring treatment in hospitals has especially spiked in recent days,” he said.
To ensure Pakistan’s healthcare infrastructure does not become overburdened, he said, the NCOC had decided to re-impose several restrictions in select cities. “In Punjab, these would apply on Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan; In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Peshawar and Abbottabad; In Sindh Karachi and Hyderabad; and in Islamabad, Mirpur, Muzaffarabad, Gilgit, and Skardu,” he said. These restrictions, he added, would be applicable from Aug. 3 till Aug. 31.
- Complete ban on indoor dining at all restaurants. Outdoor dining and takeaways can continue, but eateries will be required to close at 10 p.m. daily, down from midnight currently
- Markets and shopping malls will have to be shut down by 8 p.m. daily, down from 10 p.m. currently. They will also have to shutter two days per week, with each federating unit to decide which “closed days” they would utilize
- All public and private offices to return to 50 percent staff attendance
- Public transport to operate at 50 percent capacity, down from 70 percent currently allowed
- All large gatherings of any kind are banned; wedding receptions with a maximum of 400 guests will be allowed
The minister regretted that SOPs requiring vaccination for indoor dining and wedding receptions were being flouted nationwide. “The compliance was too low,” he said, adding that this was why these restrictions needed to be re-imposed.
He urged the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible, stressing that this was the only viable path out of the pandemic.