The Punjab Primary and Secondary Health Department on Tuesday enforced 'smart lockdowns' in several areas of Lahore – Punjab's capital with a population of over 11 million – that have been identified as Covid-19 hotspots.
The move comes a day after the health department told a meeting of the Punjab apex committee that the current coronavirus situation was the same as it was in June when the infection was at its peak in the province.
In a notification issued earlier today, the health department said there had been "a constant increase in the positivity percentage and prevalence of Covid-19 in Punjab during last two weeks which poses a serious and imminent threat to public health".
As a result, "controlled entry and exit" has been enforced at 55 localities in Lahore's Data Gunj Baksh Town, Shalimar Town, Samnabad Town, Aziz Bhatti Town and Allama Iqbal Town till December 21 with immediate effect.
"The rest of Lahore shall remain open in compliance with the health department's order dated October 30, 2020," the notification said.
The directives by the health department come as the 11-party opposition alliance — the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) — is gearing up to stage the next rally of its anti-government campaign in Lahore on December 13 (Sunday).
In the notification, the health department said all markets, shopping malls, restaurants, offices (public and private) in these localities will remain closed.
"There shall be a complete ban on movement of people to and from these areas by public and private transport except for limited movement of one person per vehicle to and from the exempted facilities.
"There shall also be a complete ban on gatherings of all kinds for social, religious, or any other purpose at any place, public or private throughout these areas," the notification said.
Meanwhile, grocery stores, fruit and vegetable shops, tandoors and petrol pumps have been allowed to operate seven days a week from 9am to 7pm.
All medical services, pharmacies, laboratories, clinics and hospitals have been allowed to operate 24 hours a day for seven days a week. Milk and meat shops have been allowed to open seven days a week from 7am to 7pm.
Lahore, with 60,755 coronavirus cases, accounts for almost half of total Punjab's 124,191 infections since the pandemic began. The city recorded 149 cases and 13 deaths from the virus on December 7. So far 3,218 people have died in the Punjab, with Lahore accounting for 1,282 of these deaths.
Pakistan, where a second wave of the virus is intensifying, recorded 89 more fatalities from coronavirus in the last 24 hours (December 7), the highest daily total since July 4 when the country reported 93 deaths.
Out of these, Sindh and Punjab constituted 41 deaths each, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported six, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir confirmed one fatality.