Govt further eases Covid-19 restrictions amid decline in cases | The Express Tribune

The federal government on Monday, on the advice of the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC), further relaxed coronavirus restriction after witnessing a significant reduction in cases throughout the country.

Pakistan recorded 20 deaths from Covid-19 – the lowest daily figure since February, according to health ministry’s data.

Total fatalities from the novel coronavirus in the country rose to 22,231, according to the health ministry, which also reported 914 additional infections over the last 24 hours, bringing the case count to 955,657.

Daily cases have been declining in Pakistan since earlier this month from 2,028 cases on June 2.

Read more: Outdoor dining returns to city

The country registered 16 fatalities on Feb. 21 — the lowest in 2021 — while 201 deaths were recorded on April 27, the highest since the country was hit by a third virus wave in March.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, who also heads NCOC, chaired a meeting of the forum in Islamabad during which the situation due to Covid-19 in the country came under discussion in detail.

Satisfied with the overall situation, the forum decided to bring further relaxations that will be implemented from July 1 to August 31.

As per the new guidelines, the working hours of business centres would be extended till 10pm whereas the essential services including petrol pumps and medical stores would be allowed to remain open 24 hours a day.

Also read: Shops, markets can remain open till 8pm from Monday onwards: NCOC

The NCOC said that outdoor dining in restaurants will be allowed. However, only those people who have been vaccinated from the deadly virus can enjoy indoor dining and that too with only 50 per cent capacity. “A mechanism will be established in hotels and restaurant to verify the vaccination certificates of the people,” it added.

The forum has decided to allow outdoor wedding ceremonies with up to 400 guests. However, a 200-guest event can be held if all the participants are vaccinated.

It was decided that the ban on all cultural, religious and other gatherings will continue to remain in place. However, the shrines will be allowed to open with strict adherence to standard operating procedures (SOPs).

The NCOC also allowed cinemas to operate but only those people who are vaccinated against the virus can enjoy the service. Public transport has also been permitted to run but with 70 per cent capacity.

The forum also said that the matter of summer vacations in educational institutions would be decided by the provinces themselves.

On Friday, Asad Umar warned that the country could be hit by a fourth Covid-19 wave next month, asking people to adhere to safety measures and get vaccinated.

“Reviewed the artificial intelligence-based disease modelling analysis today… In the absence of strong SOP (standard operating procedures) enforcement and continued strong vaccination programme, the 4th wave could emerge in Pakistan in July,” tweeted Umar.

“Please adhere to SOPs and vaccinate as soon as possible.”

Amid a falling infection rate and an expedited vaccination drive, most restrictions in Pakistan have already been eased.

But, apparent resistance to follow health guidelines such as mask-wearing, along with vaccine hesitancy, has led provincial governments to warn of drastic measures such as blocking cellphone connections and withholding salaries of government employees who are not inoculated.

Pakistan, which has obtained most of its vaccine doses from China, has administered over 14.7 million so far. Anyone over 18 years old is eligible for vaccination.

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