Punjab, Sindh, KP withdraw lockdown orders, allow 'pre-Covid-19 practices' with SOPs

Updated 10 Aug 2020

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Athletes exercise at a gym following an ease in restrictions that had been imposed to help control the coronavirus, in Peshawar, Monday, Aug 10. — AP
Athletes exercise at a gym following an ease in restrictions that had been imposed to help control the coronavirus, in Peshawar, Monday, Aug 10. — AP

Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have issued orders allowing the reopening of most of the sectors which had been closed for months due to the coronavirus pandemic, but emphasised adherence to health guidelines to prevent further spread of the virus.

The Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department withdrew the government's lockdown order on Sunday, allowing resumption of "pre-Covid-19 practices subject to adoption of SOPs/guidelines".

On Monday, the Sindh government too said it was allowing businesses to resume operations, noting that it had agreed with the decision of a majority of the provinces despite "some difference of opinion on opening up". The KP government issued a similar order.

Punjab allows resumption of businesses

According to the notification issued by the Punjab health department, dated August 9, all sectors barring marriage halls/marquees and educational institutions have been allowed to resume operations from today (August 10), with timings and weekly holidays "reverted to pre-Covid-19 practice".

Furthermore, religious congregations will only be held after approval from the administration and will be bound to follow the standard operating procedures laid out by the government.

Operators of public transport — that has been allowed to resume function — will also have to ensure that preventive measures are being observed by passengers.

Sindh still maintains some restrictions

In its order, the Sindh home department said businesses have been allowed to reopen subject to "strict adherence" of SOPs in view of the decline in Covid-19 cases in the country, but acknowledged that "the disease is still prevalent and likely to increase if no adequate precautions are taken".

Educational institutions, marriage halls, business and expo centres in the province will be allowed to reopen from September 15.

The activities/businesses allowed to resume from August 10 include:

  • Hotels, restaurants and cafes
  • Parks and grounds
  • Cinemas and theatres
  • Non-contact sports, sports clubs and gyms
  • Sports tournaments (indoor and outdoor) without audience
  • Beauty parlours and spas
  • Shrines (for permitted gatherings)
  • Tourism
  • Public transport with SOPs

According to the order, which will remain in effect until Sept 15, businesses in Sindh will be allowed to open six days a week, with an off on either Friday of Sunday except pharmacies and essential services. Their timings will be from 6am to 8pm except on Saturday when they will remain open until 9pm.

Businesses will be required to allow only around one-third of their normal capacity of visitors/customers inside their establishments at a time to ensure social distancing.

Restaurants and cafes will be allowed to operate all days of the week but with limited dine-in services until 10pm daily except on Saturday when they can stay open until 11pm. The last order must be taken an hour before closing. Customers must be seated with a distance of over three feet between them.

Takeaway will be allowed from morning until 10pm on all days of the week except Saturday, when it will be permitted until 11pm. Home delivery of food will be allowed from morning until midnight (12am).

Businesses will be bound to maintain a distance of more than three feet between customers, staff or visitors and deny entry to persons showing Covid-19 symptoms or those not wearing a mask.

According to the rules, no procession or gathering will be allowed which has not been given permission for in advance including during religious festivals and national holidays.

"The provincial government/district administration, by an order, may restrict all/any activity/area which is identified as [a] hotspot/high risk for the spread of Covid-19," the order stated.

It urged the public to avoid all places with the potential of crowding and "where absolutely essential to attend", wear a face mask and strictly observe hand hygiene and social distancing protocols.

KP allows most sectors to reopen

Meanwhile, the KP home and tribal affairs department in a notification said businesses were being allowed to resume operations in the wake of the decisions taken by the National Coordination Committee, "subject to observance of SOPs".

People watch a movie at a cinema following an ease in Covid-19 restrictions in Peshawar, Monday, Aug 10. — AP
People watch a movie at a cinema following an ease in Covid-19 restrictions in Peshawar, Monday, Aug 10. — AP

From August 10 (today), the province will allow all sectors to operate except marriage halls/marquees and educational institutions.

All religious congregations will be allowed after approval of the concerned administration, according to the notification.

Timings and weekly holidays of businesses will be "reverted to the pre-Covid-19 practice".

All kinds of public transport will be allowed to reopen with immediate effect.

According to the notice, all administrative departments have been directed to prepare SOPs for the businesses/establishments falling under their jurisdiction and ensure their rigorous implementation. It warned that "stringent action" will be taken against the violators.

Govt opens up country

The provincial orders come three days after the federal government announced it was lifting restrictions on the tourism sector, restaurants and public transport, after months of suspension.

The decisions were made in a meeting of the National Coordination Committee, which was presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by representatives of all the provinces. The meeting participants also decided to lift restrictions on railways, airlines and metro buses.

However, restrictions on the number of people allowed to travel by trains, planes and buses and the mandatory gap between the passengers will remain in place till September. These will be lifted by October if the situation allowed.

“Restaurants and cafes, outdoor and indoor, will be allowed to open from 10th August and SOPs will be finalised in next two to three days. Moreover, public parks, theatres, cinemas, amusement parks, arc­a­des, expo centres and bea­uty parlours will also be allowed to open from Mon­day,” Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar had said at a media briefing after the NCC meeting.

He said permission had been given for organising tournaments and matches involving non-contact sports without the presence of audience. Moreover, he added, indoor gyms and sports clubs would also be opened.

Despite lifting restrictions, government officials have repeatedly urged people to continue taking precautions as the "situation can reverse in case of change in people's attitudes" towards the virus. As Independence Day and Muharram approaches, officials are formulating policies to ensure public safety and health, while warning people that the country can witness another spike in cases if SOPs were ignored.