ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar Monday announced some new restrictions in major cities in view of the rising number of coronavirus cases.
Addressing a press conference here along with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, the minister said all the decisions were taken after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s approval, reports Geo News.
The minister said the new restrictions will come into effect from Aug 3 (today) and will remain in place until Aug 31. In Punjab, the restrictions will be imposed in Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, and Multan while in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Peshawar and Abbottabad will face the new restrictions.
In Azad Jammu and Kashmir, restrictions will be imposed in Muzaffarabad and Mirpur, while in Gilgit-Baltistan, the new rules will apply to Gilgit and Skardu. As for Sindh, lockdowns are already in place in Karachi and Hyderabad, but after August 8, the NCOC’s new curbs will also apply, the minister said.
“Sindh will decide the new course of action regarding restrictions in the province after August 8. If Sindh decides to relax its restrictions after August 8, then the new curbs announced by the NCOC today will come into effect,” he said.
Commercial activities will be suspended by 8pm instead of 10pm. Indoor dining is banned, outdoor has been allowed till 10pm instead of 12am.
Restaurant takeaway and home delivery services are allowed to operate 24/7, public transport will operate on 50% capacity, shops and markets will remain closed twice a week, while offices will continue operating on 50% capacity.
Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Imran Khan summoned a meeting on coronavirus, as the pandemic spiralled out of control with over 8% positivity ratio being reported in the last two days.
The situation has worsened further in the country after Eid despite multiple warnings from the health authorities for implementation of government-mandated safety protocols.
The meeting discussed the surge in positive cases and deliberated on measures to contain the spread of the Delta variant of virus.
The premier was briefed about the lockdown in Sindh imposed since July 31 (Saturday) after a sharp spike in infections. The federal ministers strongly objected to the restrictions in the province, saying it will hurt the economic progress that has been achieved so far.
Meanwhile, the data released by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) Monday showed that at least 40 more patients of COVID-19 died overnight and 4,858 new cases emerged across the country. According to the latest statistics of the NCOC, 56,414 tests were conducted across the country in the 24 hours.
The rate of positive cases in the country is 8.61%, which is the highest positivity rate since May 17, said the official portal. The number of deaths has risen to 23,462 and the total number of cases has reached 1,039,965.
The national tally of total active cases was recorded 73,213 on Monday with 1,361 people recovering from the disease during the 24 hours.
Of the 40 patients who died during the 24 hours, 38 were under treatment in hospitals while two died in their respective quarantines or homes. Most of the deaths occurred in Sindh followed by Punjab. Out of the total 40 patients who died, 19 were on the ventilator.
There were 3,441 COVID infected patients under treatment in critical condition with 233 of them admitted during the past 24 hours in various COVID dedicated healthcare facilities of the country.
The maximum ventilators were occupied in four major cities including Islamabad 33%, Lahore 21%, Peshawar 26% and Skardu 25%. Around 318 ventilators were occupied elsewhere in the country while no affected person was on ventilator in Balochistan.
Around 56,414 tests were conducted across the country on Sunday, including 18,618 in Sindh, 20,049 in Punjab, 10,338 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 3,076 in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 2,083 in Balochistan, 945 in GB, and 1,305 in AJK.
Around 943,020 people have recovered so far across Pakistan making it a significant count with over 90 percent recovery rate.
Since the pandemic broke out, a total of 1,039,695 cases have been detected that also included the perished, recovered and under treatment COVID-19 patients so far, including AJK 24,891, Balochistan 30,502, GB 8,212, ICT 88,093, KP 144,848, Punjab 357,735 and Sindh 385,414.
About 23,462 deaths have been recorded in the country since the eruption of the contagion. Around 6,021 people perished in Sindh, 11,067 in Punjab, 4,468 in KP, 803 in ICT, 328 in Balochistan, 147 in GB, and 628 in AJK.
In a related development, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry Monday said the Sindh government was not able to implement COVID SOPs in the province and later decided to impose a lockdown on its own.
Speaking to a private TV channel, he said the federal government had made its position clear from the very first day regarding the lockdown.
Detailing communication between the federal and provincial governments ahead of COVID restrictions in Karachi, Fawad said Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah contacted NCOC head Asad Umar and SAPM on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan.
The chief minister conveyed that they were going to impose lockdown, Fawad said, adding that he was conveyed that the provinces were not authorized to take individual decisions.
“We have jointly fought three waves of COVID-19 successfully. Why there is a need to change the policy now?”
He said special attention needed to be paid to the reasons which led to a surge in positivity ratio in Karachi to 30 percent and blamed the provincial authorities for not implementing the COVID SOPs properly.
He said the government could not shut down the industries completely and snatch livelihood from daily wagers.
“We have to move forward as per the NCOC policy,” he said and warned that if the provincial authorities did not implement orders, then the federal government would use its constitutional options.
Meanwhile, a record number of 2,11,911 people were vaccinated against coronavirus in Karachi in a single day on Sunday, announced Sindh Law and Environment Adviser Barrister Murtaza Wahab on Monday.
Murtaza visited the Federal B Industrial Area, Karachi to launch the coronavirus vaccination facility for the workers associated with the industrial units in the locality. A mobile vaccination facility will be used to vaccinate the workers and other people associated with the industrial zone.
Murtaza said in earlier days of the coronavirus vaccination campaign in Karachi, up to 50,000 people had been getting the vaccine on a daily basis. He said the increasing number of people were turning up at the vaccination centres of the city showing that the public had believed in the beneficial nature of the vaccine.
Barrister Wahab said 250 vaccination centers were operating in Karachi, while mobile units were also being used to carry out the inoculation drive in the city.
Barrister Wahab said Delta variant of coronavirus had proved most lethal and vaccination was the most effective strategy against its alarming spread in the city.
The station house officers (SHOs) in Sindh can now take action against people violating coronavirus SOPs, said a notification from the home department issued on Monday.
In the amended notification, the home department said police inspectors could take action against those violating the SOPs at offices, industries, and shops. The police officials have been allowed to take action under Section 3(1) of the Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act, 2014, the notification said.
The powers were earlier restricted to deputy and assistant commissioners. “Besides Deputy Commissioners, Assistant Commissioners, Labour Officers concerned as well as personnel of Law Enforcement Agencies not below the rank of Inspector Police (or equivalent rank for other LEAs), the Additional Deputy Commissioners, Mukhtiarkars and Officers In charge of Police Stations are also empowered under Section 3(1) of the Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act, 2014 (The Sindh Act VII of 2015) to take any legal action on any act in contravention of this (original/amended) order or directions/notices issued thereunder and including action under section 188 of Pakistan Penal Code 1860,” it said.
The development comes after the Sindh government had imposed province-wide restrictions to curb coronavirus following a surge in cases due to the Delta variant.