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ISLAMABAD: With continuing surge in coronavirus positivity, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), Tuesday, issued fresh guidelines for Eidul Azha prayers and qurbani, urging the people to wear facemasks and keep social distancing to curb the resurgent Covid-19 in the country.

Pakistan has seen a spike in coronavirus cases; since June 20, the country has reported 7,445 new coronavirus cases with nearly a three percent positivity ratio and 20 deaths. The number of critical patients during this period has also surged to 162 from 57 patients on June 20, 2022. The surge is primarily attributed to the new BA.5 sub-variant of Omicron.

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), the country reported 653 new infections in the past 24 hours, while the positivity rate clocked in at 3.45 percent. No new Covid-19 death was reported during the past 24 hours across the country. While 113 coronavirus patients were recovered, taking the national recoveries to 1,500,529 since the pandemic outbreak, reflecting a recovery ratio of 97.5 percent. Pakistan since the start of Covid-19 in February 2020 has reported a total 1,539,275 cases and 30,403 deaths.

Health experts have warned that Covid cases could surge during the upcoming festivities, if the people did not follow official coronavirus protocols.

In a notification Tuesday, the NCOC noted that Eidul Azha will be observed on July 10. “Being a significant religious event/ congregation; Eidul Azha prayer and qurbani assume greater importance under the current Covid situation in the country,” it said, subsequently, announcing a number of guidelines.

Coronavirus infects 650 more, kills another two across country

Per the advice, Eid prayers will be organised in open spaces “under stringent Covid protocols”. In case of a compulsion to offer prayers inside mosques, all the doors and windows should remain open for ventilation. It was also recommended that two to three prayers be organised at one venue with staggered timings so that maximum people can attend it with Covid precautions.

“All Ulema leading the Eid prayers should be sensitised to keep sermons short so that people don’t have to stay in closed spaces for a longer period of time,” it added. The elderly, sick, and young children have been discouraged from attending congregation because they are more vulnerable to getting infected.

Meanwhile, no one will be allowed to enter mosques without masks. There will be separate entry and exit points at the venue to avoid “jumbling up of individuals” and hand sanitiser dispensers will be installed.

The NCOC has further instructed mosques to ensure social distancing of at least six feet between worshippers to avoid physical contact. People should also refrain from shaking hands or hugging each other to avoid the chances of disease transmission, it added.

Separately, people have been encouraged to perform ablution at home and bring their own prayer mats to the mosques. In addition, gathering after the prayers have been discouraged and people have been advised to immediately disperse after the congregation.

Furthermore, the government has encouraged people to opt for collective qurbani this year through public, private, and community organisations, and ensure the implementation of precautionary measures.

For this purpose, Ulema and religious scholars have also been told to encourage people for collective and “online qurbani”.

Meanwhile, provinces will be initiating awareness campaigns to educate the masses on the spread of the virus during meat distribution.

The NCOC said that the site of slaughtering should be at a distance from residential areas and be a vast open space. Crowding at the site should be avoided and only a limited number of people would be allowed.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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