NCOC steps up curbs in cities with over 10pc Covid positivity

News Desk
Thursday, Jan 20, 2022

ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) — the forum leading efforts against the Covid-19 pandemic in the country – on Wednesday announced fresh restrictions for the cities and districts with over 10 per cent positivity rate.

The guidelines come as the country recorded 5,472 fresh coronavirus cases and eight deaths in the 24 hours leading to Wednesday, with nationwide positivity ratio reaching 9.48 per cent. Opposition leader Shahbaz Sharif and Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin have also tested positive for coronavirus.

According to reports, Karachi is witnessing the highest positivity ratio of over 40 per cent; while the positivity ratio in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and a number of other cities also stands over 10 per cent.

Under the revised guidelines, all types of indoor gatherings, including dine-in and weddings, had been banned in the cities witnessing over 10 per cent infection rate. New curbs were also imposed on cinemas, shrines, sports, parks, other sectors.

The NCOC also decided that classes for children under 12 years would continue on “staggered” days; while classes would be conducted daily for fully-vaccinated students above 12 years of age. In the cities and districts with up to 10 per cent positivity rate, classes would continue as usual, but with stringent Covid-19 protocols as per NCOC’s guidelines.

The forum issued fresh guidelines after taking a detailed review of the current Covid-19 situation in the country and corresponding protocols, it said in a statement. The meeting was chaired by Planning minister Asad Umar.

“After a deliberate and consultative process with federating units, the forum agreed on the implementation of undermentioned NPIs/decisions,” the NCOC said, adding the measures would be implemented from January 20-31, and a review would be done on January 27. The forum said the new curbs on wedding sector would remain effective till February 15. From February 1, at least one dose for students above 12 years of age would be mandatory and no exemption other than medical reasons would be entertained, the NCOC guidelines stated. “Aggressive sentinel testing in educational institutions will be carried out for targeted closures in high disease prevalence education institutes,” the NCOC said.

Federating units in consultations with health authorities would set a number of cases or infection rate as the benchmark for closure of education institutes, the forum stated.

For cities/districts with positivity above 10 per cent indoor gatherings of all types, including weddings, would be banned from January 24. Outdoor gatherings, including weddings, would be allowed with a cap of fully vaccinated 300 guests—applicable from Jan 24.

There would be a complete ban on indoor dining. However, outdoor dining for fully vaccinated citizens and takeaway service would be allowed.

Indoor gyms at 50 per cent capacity for fully vaccinated individuals would be allowed. Cinemas would be allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only. Shrines are allowed to open at 50 per cent capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only. There would be a complete ban on contact sports like karate, boxing, martial arts, water polo, kabaddi and wrestling.

Schools would be allowed to open with 50 per cent attendance (staggered days) for students below the age of 12 years. For students (fully vaccinated) over 12 years, the NCOC has recommended 100 per cent attendance.

In another development, the NCOC has approved 25 per cent crowd attendance for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) 2022 Karachi-leg matches, which would be played at the National Stadium from January 27 to February 7.

Meanwhile, PML-N Spokes-person Marriyum Aurangzeb said in a statement on Wednesday that party president Shahbaz Sharif, after being tested positive for Covid-19, was now isolating at home and resting as per his doctor’s advice. “Shahbaz Sharif has asked the masses and PML-N workers to pray for his health,” she added.

According to media reports, Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin has suspended all his engagements, while the meeting of the Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) has also been deferred.