NCOC asks provinces to prepare guidelines for tourism

Updated 09 Aug 2020

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ISLAMABAD: Staff pictured at a fitness centre on Saturday. Gyms, sports clubs, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to open from Monday in accordance with SOPs. — Online
ISLAMABAD: Staff pictured at a fitness centre on Saturday. Gyms, sports clubs, restaurants and cafes will be allowed to open from Monday in accordance with SOPs. — Online

ISLAMABAD: With active Covid-19 cases falling below 18,000 in the country, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Saturday directed the provinces to prepare guidelines to manage tourism so that a resurgence of cases does not occur.

The centre pointed out violations of the standard operating procedures (SOPs) at almost all tourist destinations, saying if the situation was not handled properly, a second wave could not be ruled out.

On the other hand, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has suggested conducting antibodies tests of all staffers before reopening educational institutions.

According to the data released by the NCOC on Saturday, the number of active cases has been continuously decreasing, with only 17,815 infected people left in the country.

Besides, only 160 ventilators, out of 1,859 allocated for coronavirus, were in use, and 1,344 patients admitted to 735 hospitals with Covid-19 facilities.

PMA wants antibodies tests of all staffers done before schools, colleges reopen

According to a statement, the NCOC meeting, which was chaired by Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, discussed opening of tourism sector but with the necessary SOPs and safety guidelines.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir administrations have been requested to make all out efforts to enforce SOPs on visiting tourists, including wearing of face masks and managing the number of visitors. Other provinces must also adopt measures to control the flow of tourists. For the next three weeks, special efforts to ramp up testing and contact tracing of tourists through establishing of special sentinel sites at tourist spots and airports will be ensured.

“Detailed SOPs on tourism have already been issued, however, the Ministry of Health will formulate and issue special guidelines and action plan for tourist management,” the statement added.

The PMA, meanwhile, suggested conducting antibodies tests of staffers, including van drivers and attendants, before resuming educational activities.

The doctors’ representative body said as the government had been lifting restrictions on all sectors for the betterment of people it should save them from coronavirus pandemic as well as the worsening economic conditions.

“It is appreciable that the government will review the situation before opening schools. We suggest that antibodies tests of all staff members should be carried out before opening of educational institutions because one infected person can spread the disease to the entire institution. Moreover, it is suggested to open the educational institutions stepwise: primary and pre-primary classes should be the last to be opened,” PMA secretary general Dr Qaisar Sajjad said.

The PMA expressed its surprise over the decision to open all sectors at the same time.

“We are still in quarantine period after Eidul Azha. After five to six days we will be able to know how many new cases have emerged. We believe the government has taken this decision in haste as the upcoming festivals like Independence Day, Muharram and Rabiul Awwal are very close. This decision should have been taken after these festivals,” Dr Sajjad said.

He said it had been observed that 80 to 85pc people did not follow SOPs nowadays. Even in government offices people do not adopt preventive measures, therefore it is the responsibility of the government to implement SOPs strictly, he added.

The PMA secretary general said other countries had eased their lockdowns and opened various sectors when their cases decreased.

But, cases rose again in countries like United States, United Kingdom, Brazil, Australia, China and South Korea, he added.

Dr Sajjad said it was a fact that the number of positive cases and deaths had been decreasing in Pakistan since July, but, unfortunately, as per information, cases were increasing in Skardu, Gilgit and other nearby areas.

“We are scared that our graph might rise again. It could increase the burden on our hospitals and healthcare workers just like it happened after Eidul Fitr. So far, 101 doctors and 24 paramedics have sacrificed their lives during the war against coronavirus,” he said.

The association once again called on people to follow the SOPs and continue adopting preventive measures.

“Wear masks, keep social distance, wash or sanitise your hands, avoid going out and avoid crowds. Public should support the government to normalise life and economic conditions in Pakistan,” Dr Sajjad added.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2020