Amid the downward trajectory of coronavirus cases in Pakistan, the National Command and Operation Centre on Wednesday announced its decision to lift all Covid-related restrictions, except mandatory vaccination, as the country nears the “end of the pandemic".
“We are witnessing a decrease in the number of coronavirus cases and the patients on critical care. Right now we have the lowest number of patients on critical care since October 2020,” NCOC head Asad Umar said in a media briefing in Islamabad. He was accompanied by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Faisal Sultan.
Moreover, he added the country was also witnessing a decrease in the Covid positivity rate, adding that further fall was expected in the number of patients on critical care.
Elaborating on the vaccination status, he said: “87% of the eligible population, which is above the 12 years of age, has received the first dose of the Covid vaccine. And 70% of the population is fully vaccinated against the virus.”
According to the NCOC's daily statistics, at least coronavirus cases were reported over the last 24 hours and the Covid positivity rate stood at 1.42%. Moreover, four people died and 567 patients were on critical care. It added that 34,698 tests were conducted in a single day.
He claimed that the contagion impact was decreasing and reached a low level and expressed his satisfaction with the vaccination rate. However, he stressed the need for more numbers in the vaccination status.
“But in view of such data, we have to move forward from this pandemic and we need a process of transition to come out of this,” he said and reiterated the NCOC’s effort to return to normalcy. “It appears that the pandemic will stay and become part of our routine life.”
In view of the prevailing Covid situation, Umar said the forum has decided to lift all Covid-related curbs – including on eating places, markets, outdoor events, sports events, religious events – except mandatory vaccination. He pointed out that the people could not travel via aeroplane unless they are vaccinated, adding that it would be in place until the country’s population further reach the vaccinated people status.
“We will review it when 80-85% people are vaccinated. But for the time being, the air travel restriction pertaining to the vaccination will be there,” he said.
The NCOC head further added that lifting of restrictions does not mean the pandemic was over and the government would closely monitor the virus behaviour on a daily basis. He also said the forum would further take measures on the basis of observation.
“With taking a little risk, we have to see its impact after the lifting of curbs,” Umar said, adding that the country would witness an uptick in the pandemic. “But, we have taken this route after a thorough decision.
“With taking a little risk, we have to see its impact after the lifting of curbs,” Umar said, adding that the country would witness an uptick in the pandemic. “But, we have taken this route after a thorough decision.”
Umar, who is also the planning minister, thanked the whole nation for achieving this feat and lauded the nation’s persistence in following the SOPs. He paid special tribute to the healthcare workers for their service and sacrificing life, saying: “Every four out three healthcare workers are women.” Moreover, he thanked the provincial and federal units, the armed forces, and the judiciary. He was of the view that courts decisions paved the way for the government to enforce decisions to stem virus spread.
He exhorted the 17% of people, who have received the first dose of the Covid vaccine, to immediately get the second dose of the jab. “After their vaccination, we may announce that the pandemic is completely over.”
In addition to this, SAPM on Health Faisal Sultan spoke on the way of life after the lifting of curbs decision and the precautionary measures.
“Firstly, this pandemic has clearly decreased and we hope for a similar trend,” he said, adding that the Covid’s pressure on the country’s health system was minimal.
He stressed the need for regular use of vaccines in order to ward off the virus. Sultan exhorted unvaccinated and partial vaccinated people to get the dose to keep the country safe. “Complete vaccination will be an important intervention.”
Furthermore, the PM’s aide said the government would use all the techniques and strategies learned over the last two years in the fight against Covid in order to detect the virus. Sultan said that people should continue to wear masks if they are in congested places or areas without much airspace because such a Covid protocol would still help in lessening the virus impact.
“We will only stop its [masks] use when there will a clear consensus globally on it and we will talk to you on this,” he said.