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ISLAMABAD: Planning Minister Asad Umar has said the government has decided to close indoor restaurants across Pakistan to prevent spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

Briefing media about decisions taken by the National Coordination Committee, which met in Islamabad today with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, he said this ban will not be valid for food stalls operating in open spaces.

He said the NCC also validated decisions taken by the National Command and Operation Centre regarding closure of schools. He said provincial governments have been asked to consult Ulema, requesting them to appeal Namazis to observe Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in mosques so that prayer and protection of health can go side by side.

The Minister said in view of increasing intensity and severity of second wave of the pandemic, the government also imposed ban on holding public gatherings. He appealed the political leadership of the country to avoid organizing public rallies to prevent spread of the contagion. He said Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaisar has convened a meeting of the parliamentary committee on COVID-19 tomorrow and it is hoped that leadership of all the political parties will attend the sitting to evolve a common strategy to contain spread of the virus by desisting from holding mass rallies.

The Minister urged the people to realize severity of the second wave of the pandemic as at present around 1,750 people are on oxygen and in a critical condition. He appealed the people to strictly observe SOPs, including wearing of masks, avoiding hand shaking, frequent hand washing, social distancing.

Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister's Special Assistant on National Health Dr Faisal Sultan said 2,900 new cases have been reported during the last 24 hours, while 212 COVID affected patients have admitted to hospitals, while mortality rate has increased to 7.2 percent. He said Pakistan has successfully overcome the first wave of the pandemic due to observance of a disciplined response to the virus by strictly following the SOPs.