No let-up as 6,540 Covid cases surface in a day

Published January 23, 2022
A health worker fills a syringe with the Pakvac Covid-19 vaccine at a market in Karachi, Jan 22. — AP
A health worker fills a syringe with the Pakvac Covid-19 vaccine at a market in Karachi, Jan 22. — AP

ISLAMABAD: As the country recorded more than 6,000 coronavirus cases for a third consecutive day, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Saturday in an ‘unprecedented’ decision allowed only the fully vaccinated people to offer prayers in mosques.

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, who heads the NCOC, however, distanced himself from the statement and claimed that he did not attend the meeting.

The NCOC session took a detailed review of current situation of Covid-19 in the country. The forum agreed on implementation of essential protocols for mosques and other worship places. “Only fully vaccinated individuals are allowed for prayer in masajid/worship places,” declared an NCOC statement a day after the government withdrew a similar announcement.

In its statement on Friday, the NCOC had allowed only fully vaccinated people in mosques but later requested the media not to publish it. On Saturday again, it was announced that only fully vaccinated people would be allowed to say prayers in mosques. But the NCOC head and federal minister while talking to Geo News later said there was no intention to stop unvaccinated people from entering mosques. He added that he did not attend the NCOC meeting.

While referring to mosques, the NCOC at the meeting decided to make facemask wearing mandatory, besides highlighting the need to ensure other SOPs such as removal of carpets and maintaining distance of six feet between faithful. It also recommended that elderly and co-morbid people should preferably offer prayers at home, ensure frequent hand sanitization, minimal attendance for prayers at mosques, ablution at home, opening of doors/windows for ventilation and preferably organising prayers in open were also suggested. It was also suggested that duration of Friday sermons should be reduced.

In a message on social media, Minister Umar suggested the masses to get booster shots at the earliest. “2 important news regarding omicron. 1) more than 2 thousand people dying of Covid daily in the US. So when you hear omicron is mild, it can still kill you. 2) latest research shows booster dose gives significant protection. So if it’s been 6 months since 2nd dose, get a booster,” he tweeted.

Official data shows that 6,540 infections and 12 deaths were reported from across the country in past 24 hours. As many as 1,193 patients were hospitalized and 115 of them were on ventilators.

The NCOC also decided to provide free of cost booster shots to those intending to travel abroad. Previously, they had to pay for the booster shots.

Moreover, a notification being circulated on social media regarding closure of educational institutions and public transport has been declared fake. The fake notification stated the Prime Minister Imran Khan has banned all types of indoor and outdoor gatherings, indoor gyms, intercity public transport and closed education sector.

“Yet another fake notification is circulating on Social Media regarding new restrictions due to COVID. No such notification is issued today,” the NCOC tweeted.

The Punjab government imposed different restrictions in the province to control the fifth wave of the pandemic.

Primary and Secondary Healthcare secretary Imran Skandar Baloch issued the orders under the sections 4(c), 5(1)(e), 5(1)(f) of The Punjab Infectious Disease (Prevention and Control) Act 2020.

The business activities will be allowed to operate without restrictions.

Indoor and outdoor dining will be allowed for fully vaccinated people; Fully vaccinated people will be allowed to attend indoor wedding ceremonies with 300 guests while outdoor wedding with fully vaccinated people with a maximum limit of 500 guests.

The orders include that all shrines will remain open throughout the province only for fully vaccinated people with strict adherence of SOPs. Cinemas, gatherings, sports, gyms remained open for fully vaccinated people.

Public transport will operate with 70 per cent occupancy and railways with 80 per cent occupancy. Recreation points will be allowed with 50 per cent occupancy.

All citizens should wear masks and all education institutes shall follow 100 per cent attendance for fully vaccinated students of above 12 years of age and 50 per cent attendance with staggered days shall be observed for students under 12 years of age.

Industrial and agriculture activities and establishment shall remain exempted from operation of this order.

Imran Gabol in Lahore also contributed to this report

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022

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