Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar on Wednesday said that the government was lifting all Covid-19 related restrictions across the country as Pakistan "has come close to eliminating the pandemic".
Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, he said, "We have decided that all restrictions we have imposed related to the coronavirus on weddings, indoor dining and markets, we are ending all of them."
He added, however, that all restrictions on those not vaccinated against the coronavirus would remain.
The minister said the government would keep monitoring the disease prevalence on a daily basis.
At the start of his press conference, Umar noted that there was a decrease in cases while the number of patients in critical care was the lowest since October 2020.
In addition, 87 per cent of the eligible population has received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine while 70pc have been fully vaccinated, he said, citing it as the reason behind the reduced spread of the virus.
"We need a transition process towards a normal, ordinary life because it seems at the moment that the pandemic will continue and become a part of our lives."
This was why the government was lifting all Covid-related restrictions, including on sports activities and religious gatherings, the minister said.
Restrictions on unvaccinated people were likely to remain until 80-85pc of the eligible population was fully vaccinated, he added.
However, he cautioned that the removal of restrictions "doesn't mean the pandemic is over" and the government would continue to monitor the situation.
If the situation changed and measures were needed again, the government would take them, Umar said. "At the moment, we have decided that [since] we have come so close to eliminating the pandemic, we should take the risk of what happens by opening [up the country]."
Minister congratulates nation
He congratulated the nation for the way it faced a "very big challenge" and implemented all instructions issued by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).
"The government could not do it alone which is why the NCOC was formed [and] all governments — in the Centre and provinces — implemented and consulted together. Pakistan Army had a very big role. All the operational work of the NCOC was the responsibility of a special army contingent."
Umar also thanked the judiciary for its support and scholars for the way they conveyed pandemic-related messaging to the people.
He also highlighted the role of healthcare workers, especially female healthcare personnel.
Addressing the press conference alongside Umar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan said the pressure on the health system had decreased and there was no "clear sign" that the disease prevalence would rise again.
He said it was very important for most of the population to be vaccinated to keep the country "safe", adding that the lessons learned from dealing with the pandemic would be implemented in institutions to try and make permanent improvements.
"We will keep monitoring the situation continuously and see where cases are [increasing] globally and in Pakistan and if a change in strategy is needed," he concluded.