Curbs tightened amid unrelenting Covid surge

Published April 15, 2021
Volunteers arrange plates for people to use when breaking their fast in Peshawar on April 13. — AP
Volunteers arrange plates for people to use when breaking their fast in Peshawar on April 13. — AP

• Timings for all markets fixed from Sehr to 6pm
• All gatherings banned
• PMA resents suspension of vaccination of healthcare workers on priority basis

ISLAMABAD: While the country has reported another record number of coronavirus-related deaths since June, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has declared Saturdays and Sundays as closed days at national level.

Timings for all markets will be from Sehr till 6pm. Unlike past, the new order will also apply to grocery shops, medical stores and petrol pumps, etc.

Railway, which is functioning at 70 per cent capacity, will operate additional trains to avoid overcrowding and manage increased passenger load during Ramazan. Wearing of mask will be mandatory and civil administration/police will monitor non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) through dedicated teams at district/tehsil levels.

Meanwhile, the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) has expressed concern over suspension of priority registration of healthcare workers for vaccination.

According to a document of NCOC available with Dawn, during its special session chaired by federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, the participants took stock of current Covid-19 situation in the country.

“The participants decided implementation of broader lockdowns with stringent enforcement protocols based on risk assessment. No mobility will be allowed except emergencies,” the document states.

“All kinds of gatherings (indoor and outdoor) banned including social, cultural, political, sports and miscellaneous events. Outdoor dining will be allowed from Iftar till midnight i.e. 11:59pm with strict Covid-19 SOPs; takeaways will be allowed. Provincial /District administration will focus on strict implementation. Taraveeh prayers to be organised in open spaces as far as possible. Civil administration at every tier will engage ulema and community leaders for assistance in enforcement of Covid-19 SOPs during Ramazanul Mubarak,” it states.

According to the document, complete closure of cinemas/shrines will continue. There will be complete ban on contact sports, festivals, cultural and other events. Amusement parks will remain closed but walking/jogging tracks will remain open with strict adherence to Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs). There will be 50pc work from home policy in public and private offices. Intercity public transport will operate at 50pc of capacity and there will be ban on inter-provincial public transport on Saturdays and Sundays.

The restrictions will remain enforced till the midnight between April 25 and 26 and a review will be carried out on 20.

There will be stringent protocols for tourism in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir and tourist places elsewhere. Sentinel testing sites will be established at entry points and selected locations.

The meeting decided that an aggressive administrative drive would be launched to ensure compliance to mask wearing through community level/media awareness campaigns.

The data shared by the NCOC showed that as many as 135 deaths, which is highest since June 2020, and 4,681 Covid-19 cases were reported in a single day. The number of active cases was 76,757 and 5,056 patients were admitted to hospitals as of Wednesday.

PMA letter

The PMA, the representative body of doctors, has written a letter to NCOC head Asad Umar advising him to resume vaccination of healthcare workers on priority basis.

The letter, written by PMA Secretary General Dr Qaisar Sajjad, says that the Covid-19 situation is worsening day by day and the number of patients is rapidly increasing.

“Even at this appalling situation, when burden of Covid-19 over healthcare workers and hospitals is mounting, doctors are serving the nation with courage, honesty and dedication but unfortunately they are not getting vaccinated. The priority registration of doctors has been suspended since 17th March. Even the page for priority registration for doctors has been removed from the website. This suspension is very distressing for medical fraternity. It is drooping down their moral. They are very much disturbed and feel discouraged. This is only Pakistan in the world where medics are going through this gloomy situation. They are the frontline soldiers who are fighting without being protected. By now 193 doctors and 30 paramedics have lost their lives,” the letter says.

“Now there is no debate that doctors are hesitant to get vaccinated, they are eagerly willing to be vaccinated. We request you to immediately restore the priority registration of healthcare workers for vaccination to protect them from the deadly virus, so that they can serve the nation with courage and peace of mind,” Dr Sajjad says.

He points out that the process of vaccination is very slow and should be expedited by introducing walk-in facility for the people.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2021

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