As the fifth wave of Covid-19 intensifies across the country, especially in Karachi, the National Command and Operation Centre has announced new restrictions to contain the virus.
In a meeting of NCOC chaired by Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Wednesday, the members reviewed the Covid-19 situation in the country.
The NCOC decided to completely ban indoor events in cities or districts where the infection rate is above 10% with effect from January 24, according to a notification issued by the centre which contained non-pharmaceutical interventions (NIPs) list for all sectors of the country.
However, it decided to allow outdoor gatherings with a maximum number of 300 people in the cities and districts with Covid ratio is above 10 per cent. Cities or districts where the infection rate is below 10% will be allowed to have outdoor gatherings with maximum 500 guests, while indoor gatherings would be restricted to 300 persons.
For NPIs related to the education sector, the NCOC issued separate restrictions for students under the age of 12 years and above that age.
In those cities or districts where the infection rate is under 10 per cent, schools will operate with full attendance with "stringent Covid-19 protocols".
However, those cities or districts where Covid positivity rate is above 10 per cent, schools will have to observe 50 per cent attendance for students under the age of 12, while above that age classes will continue regularly with fully vaccinated students.
With effect from February 1, vaccination will be mandatory for students aged 12 and above. They will not be allowed to attend classes if they do not have at least one dose. However, the NCOC granted an exception to students who could not get vaccinated due to medical reasons.
According to the NCOC's new guidelines, the federating units in consultation with health authorities will decide limits for closure of schools.
The NCOC also imposed a ban on indoor dining in the cities or districts where infection rate is more than 10 per cent. However, in those areas it allowed outdoor dining for fully vaccinated people.
For public transport, the NCOC puts a limit of 70% occupancy with effect from January 20, while 80% occupancy for railways with effect from January 24.
The NCOC has decided that markets and business activities will continue operating without time restrictions.
In its notification, the Covid-19 monitoring centre said that these new restrictions for weddings will be effective till February 15, while a review would be held on January 27 for other restrictions.
New curbs emerged as Pakistan reported over 5,000 cases for the second consecutive day, while the positivity rate also stood above 9% as the fifth Covid-19 wave continued to worsen in the country.
Four cities reported above 10 per cent Covid-19 rate with Karachi topped the infection rate across the country with 36.58 per cent ratio in 3 days rolling average followed by Lahore where the infection rate for the same period stood at 13.69 per cent. Hyderabad and Karachi come on third with 12.88 per cent and fourth with 10.47 per cent respectively.
During the last 24 hours, at least 5,472 tested positive for the virus across the country, the highest since August 4, 2021 when the country reported 5,661 Covid-19 cases.
Currently, the country has 44,717 active cases of the coronavirus, while 908 patients of Covid-19 are critical.
As medical experts have earlier said the coronavirus does not differentiate between rich and poor, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif contracted the virus on Wednesday, Aaj News reported.
Following the development, the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) meeting, which was to be presided over by Tarin, scheduled for today (Wednesday) has been postponed.
PML-N Information Secretary Marriyum Aurangzeb in a Twitter post on Wednesday said the PML-N president has quarantined himself. "Doctors have also advised complete rest to the PML-N leader," it read. The PML-N president had last tested positive for coronavirus in June 2020.