• Number of active cases increases threefold as compared to September
• Timing of a function restricted to two hours
• Buffet dinner banned
ISLAMABAD: While the number of active cases of Covid-19, which was less than 6,000 in September, has increased threefold i.e. 17,804 and 148 ventilators are in use across the country, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has issued additional guidelines for marriage ceremonies to contain the spread of the deadly virus.
According to new guidelines, participants of wedding ceremonies will have to sit at six feet apart. The event timing has been restricted to two hours with cutoff time of 10pm. All guests will have to wear face masks and organisers of marriage events will have to display the seating/gathering capacity of their venues at the entrance/ reception. Moreover, the organisers will have to take precautionary measure against dengue fever.
Thermal scanning of all attendees at the entrance and wearing face masks have been declared mandatory. Buffet dinner/lunch has been banned and only lunch boxes and table service have been allowed. The wedding event mangers will have to retain the names and contact details of all wedding attendees and staff for at least 15 days.
Meanwhile, as about 600 new Covid-19 cases were reported over the weekend, the Islamabad administration on Sunday decided to seal five residential areas for at least one week.
The order will come into effect at 10 am on Monday (today). Police have been told to cordon off the areas to contain the spread of the disease.
According to a notification issued by Deputy Commissioner of Islamabad Hamza Shafqaat, subsectors I-8/3, I-8/4, G-9/1, G-10/4 and G-6/2 will be sealed.
The new guidelines, which have been prepared by the Health Services Academy, National institute of Health and Health Planning, Systems Strengtheningand Information Analysis Unit, will be implemented from Nov 20 on wards in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan,Hyderabad, Gilgit, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Peshawar, Quetta, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Faisalabad,Bahawalpur and Swat.
The draft of the guidelines, available with Dawn, states that public gatherings are potential risk for the Covid-19 infection and community transmission in the area.
Therefore, wedding events during the epidemic should be organised while taking care of the precautions and standard operating procedures (SOPs) pertaining to gatherings to minimise the chances of spread of the virus.
According to the guidelines, for 1,000 guests an area of 36,000 square feet (200X180 feet) will be required, for 200 guests 85X85 feet and for 100 guests 60X60 feet. On Nov 6, the NCOC had announced Rs100 fine on violation of wearing mask, allowed only outdoor marriages with maximum limit of 1,000 persons and the policy of work from home for 50 per cent of the staff of all public / private offices.
According to new guidelines, the organisers of wedding events will have to ensure availability of water, so that every visitor would wash hand for 20 seconds with soap, and hand sanitiser that contains at least 60pc alcohol.
The organisers will have to promote everyday protective measures and will discourage traditional greetings i.e. hand shaking, hugging etc.
Moreover, it is advised to clean and disinfect buses, vans and other vehicles used for a wedding event, avoid sharing cell phones, cameras and other devices unless disinfected, avoid use of carpets and mats and encourage hand wash and hand sanitisation before and after the meals.
There will be no offering of any self-service food or drink options, such as buffets, salad bars and drink stations. The organisers have been advised to consider having pre-packaged food boxes for the participants and if this is not possible, dinner must be served at tables with standard hygienic measures.
Retaining the names and contact details of all wedding attendees and staff for at least 15 days by the event managers will help the public health authorities to trace and contact people who may be exposed to Covid-19 or if one or more persons become ill shortly after the event.
Meanwhile, health experts have criticised the government’s recent decision to allow 1,000 guests at an outdoor wedding ceremony.
Talking to Dawn on Friday, University of Health Sciences Vice Chancellor Professor Dr Javed Akram warned that rise in number of Covid-19 cases was expected as 90pc people of the country had started ignoring SOPs.
“The fact is that the virus was subdued due to the hot weather and it has started to spread rapidly due to change in temperature,” he said.
“Allowing 1,000 guests at a wedding function is unacceptable. I suggest that no more than 100 people should attend such an event,” Professor Akram said. “People might have an impression that the virus does not affect people in an open area. However, they should know that US President Donald Trump and his staff contracted the virus from the Rose Garden of the White House.”
Published in Dawn, November 9th, 2020