Strict Restrictions to be Re-Imposed if COVID-19 SOP Violations Persist, Warns NCOC

File photo of Planning Minister Asad Umar

Forum announces that Afghan students wishing to study in Pakistan will have to submit to 10-day mandatory quarantine upon arrival

The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) on Monday warned that the government may be forced to re-impose strict mobility restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus in light of repeated violations of existing SOPs in several sectors following last month’s easing.

Chaired by Planning Minister Asad Umar, a meeting of the NCOC reviewed with “serious concern” violations of standard operating procedures (SOPs) at restaurants, indoor gymnasiums, marriage halls, transportation services, markets, and tourist spots, according to a statement. The forum decided to convene a meeting of chief secretaries of all federating units to review the violations, enact measures to enforce SOPS, and ramp up the country’s ongoing vaccination drive.

In consultation with all federating units, read the statement, the NCOC also increased the number of vaccination centers where the Moderna vaccines would be administered. It said that 59 additional centers had been designated for the purpose, including 15 in Punjab; 10 in Sindh; 14 in Khyber-Pakhtunkwa; four in Balochistan; five each in Islamabad and Pakistan-administered Kashmir; and six in Gilgit-Baltistan.

Pakistan last week received 2.5 million doses of the Moderna vaccine donated by the U.S. through the COVAX regime. The government has already announced that these would be used to inoculate citizens with valid work or study visas, as several countries do not accept the Chinese vaccines that comprise the bulk of Pakistan’s vaccination drive. In its statement, the NCOC said that a coronavirus vaccination verification portal had been established to facilitate people who wanted to travel to places where COVID-19 inoculation was necessary.

“All vaccinating staff and the public are urged to ensure that their vaccination record is entered into the National Immunization Management System (NIMS) when vaccinating,” it said.

Afghan students

The NCOC meeting also reviewed the impending arrival of around 3,000 Afghan students who are set to arrive in Pakistan for studies in various educational institutions of Pakistan, noting that they would have to undergo mandatory 10-day quarantine. It said that “effective COVID-19 testing” had been arranged for the arrival of students.

According to the statement, students who test positive would be sent back, while those who test negative would remain in mandatory quarantine for 10 days. Following the end of their quarantine period, it said, students would be vaccinated.

On Monday, Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan warned that there had been a “small but definitive” increase in coronavirus cases in the country and urged the public to continue adhering to SOPs such as mask compliance and avoidance of large public gatherings to reduce the spread.

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