Restrictions tightened amid rising cases of coronavirus


Businesses to operate only 5 days a week, close at 8pm

50 percent work from home policy will continue

Zubair Qureshi

Following spike in cases of COVID-19 and worsening situation, the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Monday issued fresh and tougher guidelines as well as Standard operating procedures (SOPs) to contain the virus which would be implemented with immediate effect.

According to the new guidelines, businesses will be allowed to operate five days a week, while all commercial activities will be closed by 8 pm.

The NCOC made these decisions during a meeting chaired by the Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar.

The meeting was also attended by the chief secretaries of all the provinces via video link.

The NCOC issued fresh coronavirus SOPs in view of the rising number of cases in the country.

According to the new regulations, in cities with a coronavirus positivity ratio of less than 8 per cent restrictions already in place will continue to be enforced.

The NCOC has directed all the provinces as well as the Islamabad administration to strictly monitor implementation of SOPs and crack down on violations that are taking place.

The new regulations include implementation of broader lockdowns with stringent enforcement protocols based on risk assessment.

No mobility will be allowed except for emergencies. Closure of all type of indoor dining, however, outdoor dining will be permitted till 10:00pm.

Takeaways will be allowed. Closure of all commercial activities (less essential services) by 8:00pm.

Two safe days per week will be observed. Choice of days will be at the discretion of the federating units.

Gatherings with an upper limit of 300 persons will be allowed with strict adherence to COVID-19 SOPs.

However, all types of indoor gatherings involving cultural, musical/religious or miscellaneous events will be banned. Complete closure of cinemas and shrines will continue to be enforced.

Complete ban on contact sports, festivals, cultural and other events. Outdoor wedding functions till 10:00pm with an upper limit of 300 guests will be allowed with strict adherence to COVID-19 SOPs (event duration two hours only). No indoor functions will be allowed.

Complete closure of amusement parks, however, walking/jogging tracks will remain open with strict adherence to COVID-19 SOPs.

50 per cent work-from-home policy will continue (including all public/private offices and courts).

Intercity public transport will operate at 50 per cent of capacity. Rail service will operate with 70 per cent of capacity.

Meanwhile, the NCOC has also decided to review the decisions related to education sector, enforced with effect from March 10, on March 24.

The forum expressed grave concern over current Covid-19 situation in the country and unanimously agreed for implementation of following high impact interventions in cities and districts with positivity greater than 8 per cent to contain the disease spread.

In cities with positivity less than 8%, already imposed restrictions will continue to be enforced based on risk assessment and disease prevalence, said a statement issued by the body.