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NCOC issues new coronavirus guidelines, eases certain restrictions

ISLAMABAD:  The National Command and Operations Centre on Wednesday issued new coronavirus guidelines for the country and allowed schools in districts with less than a 5% coronavirus positivity ratio to be reopened. 

NCOC chief Asad Umar presided over the meeting while Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, provincial chief secretaries and other members of authorities were also in attendance.

A detailed review of disease prevalence in the country was taken, a statement from the NCOC said. Following the meeting, important decisions regarding restrictions were taken after extensive deliberations.

The interprovincial public transport has been resumed, but it will remain closed for two — Saturday and Sunday — from May 22.

From May 24:

Outdoor restaurants will be opened daily till 11:59pm and takeaways will be allowed 24/7.The tourism sector will be allowed to operate under strict COVID-19 protocols. Separate instructions on protocols are being issued to all federating units.

Several sectors will be allowed to reopen from June 1, with subject to a review on May 27:

Outdoor marriage ceremonies with an upper limit of 150 Individuals.Staggered opening of educational institutions from June 7 — other than those opened from May 24.

Meanwhile, shrines, cinemas, indoor dining, indoor gyms, amusement parks, contact sports, festivals, cultural and other events, and indoor/outdoor gatherings will remain banned till further notice.

However, walking/jogging tracks in parks would remain open with strict adherence to COVID-19 SOPs.

SSC and HSSC exams

The NCOC decided all SSC and HSSC exams will be held after June 20, while conducting professional and non-professional exams would take place on a case-to-case basis on recommendations from the Ministry of Education.

The forum decided that wearing masks would remain compulsory, but innovative measures for enforcement would be taken. Implementation of broader lockdowns with stringent enforcement to be made based on risk assessment.

The current inbound and land border policy will stay intact till further orders. Gadani and Misri Shah industries would be allowed to reopen from May 20. Moreover, elective surgeries will be resumed from June 1.

“Critical monitoring of disease prevalence and critical health care system is being carried out on daily basis, and necessary steps will be taken accordingly, whenever deemed appropriate to control the disease spread,” the statement said.

Sectors already functional from May 17:

Normal office working hours; 50% staff should be sent to work from homeResumption of market activities with closure by 8pm.

The decisions were taken on the basis of the briefings provided by the provincial chief secretaries.

The NCOC had earlier imposed a lockdown in the country during the Eid holidays in order to stop the spread of the virus amid the deadly third wave.

Later, certain restrictions were eased following a review of the pandemic.

Cannot tolerate further extension of schools closure

The Pakistan Alliance of Private Schools also held a meeting today ahead of the NCOC’s review session.

“NCOC should immediately announce reopening of educational institutions,” said the alliance’s chairman Akram Sheikh.

Sheikh said coronavirus cases across the country were reported in large numbers after the markets and businesses were allowed to reopen, not schools.

“Educational institutions should be reopened, similar to other sectors, with strict compliance of coronavirus SOPs,” he said, adding that a further extension in the closure of educational institutions will result in “irreparable loss” for students.

Sheikh warned that if the ban was extended beyond May 23, countrywide protests will be held against the decision. 

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