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ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Wednesday, issued revised coronavirus guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for various segments of the economy to contain the rapidly spreading coronavirus infections in the wake of the Omicron variant.

The NCOC, which met here with Asad Umar in the chair, issued new guidelines and SOPs for the education, restaurant, entertainment, and other sectors as the country is battling against the fifth wave of the pandemic.

The NCOC decided, in cities and districts with positivity rate higher than 10 percent, the classes for children under 12 years will continue on “staggered” days, while classes will be conducted daily for fully-vaccinated students above 12 years of age.

According to the NCOC, businesses will continue without time restrictions across the country and public buses will be allowed to operate with 70 percent of their seating capacity. Wearing masks will be mandatory throughout the journey, with a complete ban on serving meals/snacks. Railways will operate with 80 percent occupancy level from January 24.

In the cities and districts which have a positivity ratio of up to 10 percent, classes will continue as usual, but with stringent Covid-19 protocols intact, as per the NCOC’s guidelines. With effect from February 1, at least one dose for students above 12 years will be mandatory and no exemption other than medical reasons will be entertained, the guidelines stated.

“Aggressive sentinel testing in educational institutions will be carried out for targeted closures in high disease prevalence education institutes,” the NCOC said.

Pakistan reports over 5,000 Covid-19 cases for second straight day

The federating units in consultations with the health authorities will set a number of cases or infection rate as the benchmark for closure of educational institutes, the forum stated.

Active coronavirus cases in Pakistan have shot up from 39,881 to 44,717 in the last 24 hours, the highest since October 6, according to official figures released Wednesday morning, as the Omicron variant pushes infections across the country.

The country registered a positivity ratio at 9.48 percent as 5,472 new cases were detected after 57,669 tests were conducted, taking the national tally to 1,338,993 since the pandemic outbreak.

The NCOC has also reported eight new Covid-19 deaths, which pushed the national death toll to 29,037.

The country also reported 628 coronavirus recoveries in the past 24 hours taking the national recoveries to 1,265,239 since the outbreak.

According to the NCOC, in the past 24 hours, major cities of Pakistan have recorded the following coronavirus positivity ratio: Karachi remained top with 40.13 percent followed by Muzaffarabad 21.43 percent, Lahore 15.15 percent, Hyderabad 13.98 percent, Islamabad 11.80 percent, Peshawar 10.68 percent, and Rawalpindi 10.26 percent.

Nationwide, a total 24,297,430 Covid-19 tests have been conducted, of which, 57,669 were performed in the past 24 hours. Nationwide, a total 169,131,246 Covid-19 vaccination jabs have been administered to the people, of which, 77,932,013 people have been fully vaccinated, while 102,396,649 people have received their first jab.

In the past 24 hours, Sindh reported a total 3,378 Covid-19 cases and sixCovid-19 deaths taking the provincial tally of infections to 509,308 and death toll to 7,709.

Punjab reported 1,127 Covid-19 cases and no deaths taking the provincial cases tally to 455,499 and death toll remains at 13,091.

The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) reported 702 new Covid-19 cases, taking the ICT’s tally of cases to 112,557 and death toll stays at 969.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) reported 200 new Covid-19 cases and two deaths taking the provincial tally to 182,619 and death toll to 5,965. The Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) reported 41 cases and no deaths taking the cases tally to 34,811 and death toll remains 749.

Punjab imposes fresh restrictions amid rise in Covid cases

Balochistan reported 15 new Covid-19 cases and no deaths, taking the provincial cases tally to 33,744 and death toll is at 367; and Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) reported nine new coronavirus infections and no deaths taking the GB’s cases tally to 10,455 and death toll remains 187.

The NCOC has taken following decisions for cities and districts with positivity above 10 percent: (i) Indoor gatherings of all types, including weddings, will be banned from January 24 (ii) Outdoor gatherings, including weddings, will be allowed with a cap of fully vaccinated 300 guests applicable from January 24 (iii) There will be a complete ban on indoor dining, however, outdoor dining for fully-vaccinated citizens and takeaway service will be allowed (iv) Indoor Gyms at 50 percent capacity for fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed (v) Cinemas will be allowed to open at 50 percent capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only (vi) Shrines are allowed to open at 50 percent capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only. (vii) There would be a complete ban on contact sports like karate, boxing, martial arts, water polo, kabaddi, and wrestling.(viii) Schools will be allowed to open with 50 percent attendance (staggered days) for students below the age of 12 years. For students (fully vaccinated) over 12 years, the NCOC has recommended 100 percent attendance.

The NCOC has taken following decisions for cities and districts with positivity ratio less than 10 percent: (i) Indoor gatherings are allowed with a maximum limit of 300 guests (fully vaccinated), while outdoor events can be held with a maximum limit of 500 guests. (ii) Indoor and outdoor dining is permitted for fully vaccinated individuals only, while takeaways are allowed 24/7. (iii) Indoor gyms are open for fully vaccinated individuals only. (iv) Shrines, parks, and all types of sports will remain open for fully vaccinated individuals only. (vi) Children will continue to attend schools with strict SOPs, while those above 12-years of age must have to be fully vaccinated. (vi) Offices will be allowed to operate at 100 percent capacity with normal working hours. However, work from home is encouraged. (vii) There will be a complete ban on meal/beverages serving during the in-flight journey for domestic travel.(viii) With effect from February 2022 vaccination for students above 12 years will be mandatory (at least one dose). No exemption other than medical reasons will be entertained. Aggressive sentinel testing in educational institutions will be carried out for targeted closures in high disease prevalence education institutes.

Federating units in consultations with health authorities will set a number/percentage for closure of education institutes.

Moreover, the NCOC has also advised the citizens to comply with compulsory mask wearing, while incorporating innovative measures for enforcement.

Strict adherence to the SOPs in mosques and other places of worship be ensured by all federating units; and targeted lockdown with stringent enforcement protocols based on risk assessment will continue.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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