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Rising corona cases bring curbs again

Muhammad Anis & M Waqar Bhatti
Thursday, Jan 20, 2022

ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Amid rising cases of Covid-19 in the country, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Wednesday decided to continue academic activities in the educational sector, business activities and public transport with stringent protocols.

The NCOC meeting, chaired by Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and co-chaired by National Coordinator Major General Muhammad Zafar Iqbal, announced separate conditions for various sectors having positivity ratio above and up to 10 percent.

It was also announced to implement decisions from January 20 to 31 while there would be a review of Covid-19 situation on January 27.In cities and districts with positivity ratio up to 10 percent, it was decided to keep schools open for students under 12 years of age while only fully vaccinated students of above 12 years would be allowed to attend classes.

From February 01, the students of under 12 years with at least one vaccination would be allowed to attend classes. However, aggressive sentinel testing in educational institutions will be carried out for targeted closure in high prevalence educational institutes.

In cities and districts withpositivity ratio above 10 percent, students under 12 years would attend classes with 50 percent attendance on staggering days while 100 percent attendance of students of above 12 years is allowed.

As far weddings and gatherings in cities and districts with up to 10 percent ratio are concerned, the NCOC allowed indoor events with 300 fully vaccinated guests and maximum 500 fully vaccinated guests for outdoor arrangements.

However, the NCOC imposed a ban on indoor weddings in cities and districts with positivity ratio above 10 percent while maximum 300 fully vaccinated guests would be allowed for outdoor events. There will be ban on all contact sports like karate, boxing, wrestling, martial arts, water polo, etc.

The NCOC also allowed to open indoor gyms, cinemas, shrines, amusement parks and indoor and outdoor dining for fully vaccinated people in areas having ratio up to 10 percent. All sports have also been allowed for fully vaccinated individuals.

Business activities will continue without restrictions on timings while meal and beverages would not be allowed during inflight domestic travel.In a related development, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif and Minister for Finance Shaukat Tarin tested positive for corona.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 cases and case positivity are constantly on the rise in Sindh, especially Karachi where 40.13 percent case positivity was recorded while 3,648 more cases were detected in the province when 16,735 tests were conducted during the last 24 hours, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said in his daily Covid-19 situation report. “One more person died due to complications of Covid-19 in Sindh while 3,648 people were tested positive when 16,735 tests were conducted in the last 24 hours”, Murad Ali Shah said, adding that death toll reached 7,710 in the province with one death due to Covid-19 ’s complications.

Of the 3,648 Covid-19 cases detected in the province, 3,081 cases were from Karachi, the minister said and warned that positivity of the cases could rise further with vulnerable people landing at hospitals if people failed to follow SOPs.

Sharing Omicron variant data, the chief minister said during the last few days, 28 Whole Genome and Next Generation Sequencing were carried out, of which 26 new cases lifting the number of Omicron variant cases detected in the province so far to 500.

The CM maintained that so far 7,402,684 tests have been conducted against which 511,124 cases were diagnosed, of them 92.5 percent or 473,008 patients have recovered, including 269 overnight. He said currently 30,406 patients were under treatment, of them 30,022 were in home isolation, 32 at isolation centers and 352 at different hospitals and added that the condition of 300 patients was stated to be critical, including 22 shifted to ventilators.

According to him, out of 3,648 new cases, 3,081 have been detected from Karachi, including 1,147 from East, 840 South, 484 Central, 339 Malir, 166 West and 105 Korangi. While in other districts Hyderabad has 242, Jamshoro 23, Badin and Tando Muhammad Khan 19 each, Thatta 16, Shaheed Benazirabad, Sujawal and Tharparkar 15 each, Matiari 14, Mirpurkhas and Sanghar 13 each, NausheroFeroze, Dadu and Sukkur 12 each, Larkana and Ghotki 10 each, Shikarpur, Tando Allahyar and Umerkot eight each, Jacobabad seven, Kashmore two and Qamber and Khairpur one each.

Meanwhile, the home department of Sindh issued a new lockdown order after witnessing a little surge in Covid-19 cases in the province. The order will remain into effect till January-31, 2022.

The Sindh Home Department devised two sets of SOPs for Khi-Hyderabad having more restrictions against rest of the province, due to the higher disease prevalence.

The schools in Karachi and Hyderabad were instructed to allow 50 pc attendance on staggered days for students under 12 years while fully vaccinated students of over 12 years will be allowed 100 pc attendance. The order mandated vaccination for students above 12 years (at least one doze) from February 1, 2022. No exception other than medical reasons will be entertained. Aggressive sentinel testing in educational institutes will be carried out for targeted closures.

The markets and business activities are allowed without time restrictions. All the management, staff and customers shall strictly follow Covid SOPs. Moreover, public transport must ply with 70 precent occupancy for the fully vaccinated, with mandatory mask compliance throughout the journey. The offices will have normal working hours with 100 percent attendance and all employees must be fully vaccinated. However work from home is encouraged.

According to the notification, indoor and outdoor weddings and related ceremonies are allowed only for fully vaccinated individuals with following maximum limit of individuals. The managements must ensure strict complinace of Covid SOPs.

In Karachi and Hyderabad there would be a ban on ‘indoor’ gatherings while only 300 individuals will be allowed for outdoor events. While others cities can have 300 individuals for indoor and 500 individuals for outdoors events. Serving of meals in boxes is encouraged.

It also mentioned restrictions on gyms, cinemas, shrines and amusement parks in Karachi and Hyderabad with 50 percent occupancy for fully vaccinated individuals. Both cities will also observe complete ban on contact sports, while other cities have no such restrictions for vaccinated individuals.

Strict adherence to SOPs in mosques and other places of worship must be ensured by district administrations. Targeted lockdowns with stringent enforcement protocols will continue.