ISLAMABAD: Exactly two years after placing coronavirus-related restrictions, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Wednesday announced normalisation, as Covid-19 settled after infecting over 1.5 million people and taking 30,317 lives.
Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar said the decision of normalisation could increase the number of cases a little, but expressed the hope the situation would remain under control as over 70pc people had already been vaccinated.
“It was decided in the NCOC meeting today to lift all restrictions, except the vaccination-related restrictions. All those who are not vaccinated must get fully vaccinated so that they can avoid all restrictions as they will have to face restriction until 80pc to 85pc people would become fully vaccinated. We will continue to monitor disease pattern closely and take action if needed,” the minister tweeted.
The first Covid-19 case was reported in Pakistan in the last week of February 2020, nearly two months after its detection in China. As the cases began to multiply, the National Security Committee (NSC) comprising top civil and military leadership was held on March 13 to discuss the crisis, which was later declared pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). Area-wise lockdown was announced in the latter half of March that continued until the second week of April. Several industries, including the construction sector, educational institutions, restaurants, marriage halls, were closed due to the restrictions. On March 27th, the NCOC was established.
Asad Umar says Pakistan close to eradicating virus
The announcement about normalization was earlier made by Minister Umar while addressing along with Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan a joint press conference in Islamabad.
The minister, while congratulating the nation, said the decision was made because the country had reached close to eradicating the virus. “We have decided to end all the restrictions related to wedding halls, indoor dining, markets, religious gatherings, sports events and in other sectors. However, it is only for fully vaccinated people and those who could not be vaccinated, till date, will have to follow the restrictions,” he said.
Mr Umar said the government would keep monitoring the pandemic on a daily basis though the current situation was quite under control.
The NCOC data showed that as many as 493 infections and four deaths were reported during the past 24 hours, while the national positivity remained at 1.42per cent, with 567 patients in critical care across the country.
While sharing official data regarding vaccination, the minister said 87pc of the vaccine eligible people had received at least one shot and 70pc had become fully vaccinated due to which the virus spread had reduced. However, he pointed out that the people should not forget that the pandemic had not been over and suggested that they should keep following the standard operating procedures SOPs, as the government was monitoring the situation.
If the situation deteriorated, the government would be left with no option but to go for restrictions again, he added.
The minister praised the role of the Pakistan Army for running the NCOC and taking steps to monitor the pandemic. He also praised the judiciary, scholars and media for sensitizing the masses about the precautionary measures after the spread of virus. He said the role of health care workers could not be ignored.
PM’s aide Dr Sultan said the data showed pressure on the healthcare system was low with no apparent sign that the cases would bounce back. “People should get vaccinated as it is important for them to keep them and their beloved ones safe. We have learnt lessons from the pandemic and they will be implemented in institutions to deal with any untoward situation in future,” he added.
He said the situation would be observed continuously both at global and Pakistan level and restrictions could be reinforced in case of change in situation.
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2022