NCOC On Monday Imposed Further Restrictions (Lockdown) Which Will Remain In Force Till April 11 In View Of The Rising Cases Of Covid-19.

By Ikram Junaidi
  • NCOC decision to be enforced where positivity ratio is over 8pc
  • Restrictions on education sector to be reviewed on March 24

The National Command And Operation Centre (NCOC) On Monday Imposed Further Restrictions Which Will Remain In Force Till April 11 In View Of The Rising Cases Of Covid-19. The NCOC, at its meeting, decided to impose broader lockdowns, with no mobility except for emergencies, in 10 cities where the positivity ratio is over 8pc. They are Islamabad, Lahore, Multan, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Bahawalpur, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Swat and Muzaffarabad.

The government had earlier implemented a policy of smart lockdowns in which people had liberty to move. However, according to the new policy, residents of the areas concerned will be informed about the duration of lockdown and will be suggested to store edible items. People will not be able to move freely, except for emergencies. Edible items will be provided at their doorstep, through online services.

These decisions will be reviewed during the centre’s next meeting on April 7. The NCOC decided to close commercial activities by 8pm and ban all types of indoor gatherings — cultural, musical and religious. Two safe days per week will also be observed. Inter-city public transport will operate at 50pc and rail service at 70pc capacity. Complete closure of amusement parks will be ensured and reduced presence will be observed in courts (city, district, high courts and Supreme Court). Stringent protocols for tourism will also be followed in Gilgit-Baltistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Kashmir and other tourist places. The NCOC will review decisions concerning the education sector on March 24.

According to a statement of the NCOC, the meeting was presided over by Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Special Initiatives Asad Umar and attended by chief secretaries of all provinces via video link. “The forum expressed grave concern over the current Covid-19 situation in the country and unanimously agreed for implementation of high impact interventions in cities/districts with positivity greater than 8pc to contain the disease spread. In cities with positivity less than 8pc, already imposed non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) will continue to be enforced based on risk assessment/disease prevalence,” it stated.

A document, available with Dawn, showed that on Sunday 7,308 samples were collected in Islamabad out of which 672 were found positive on Monday, showing a positivity rate of 9.2pc. In Lahore, 7,834 tests were conducted and 1,153 were found positive. The positivity ratio was calculated at 14.72pc.The infection rate was 14.17pc in Multan, 9.84pc in Rawalpindi while Faisalabad reported the highest ratio in Punjab with 18.69pc. Bahawalpur showed a positivity ratio of 12.98pc. The highest rate in the country was reported in Peshawar city which stood at 19.98pc.

Swat’s infection ratio was 17.09pc, Muzaffarabad, 15.56pc and Hyderabad, 10.03pc. The meeting decided to implement broader lockdowns with stringent enforcement protocols based on risk assessment and allow no mobility, except in case of emergencies. Closure of all types of indoor dining has been announced while outdoor dining permitted till 10pm. However, there is no bar on takeaways. During the meeting it was decided to close all commercial activities (less essential services) by 8pm and observe two safe days per week. The choice of days will be at the discretion of the federating units.

Gatherings with upper limit of 300 people will be allowed with strict adherence to Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs). Complete closure of cinemas and shrines will continue and contact sports, festivals and other events will be banned. Outdoor marriage functions can continue till 10pm with a maximum of 300 guests. The duration of the event will be only two hours. The meeting decided to keep walking/jogging tracks open with strict observance of SOPs while 50pc work from home policy will continue. Later in a tweet, Asad Umar stated: “In the NCOC meeting this morning we decided to increase restrictions of activities contributing to sharp increase in Covid positivity. The provincial & ICT administration were also directed to tighten implementation of sop’s and crackdown on violations which are taking place.”

According to data issued by the NCOC, 3,669 cases and 20 deaths were reported in a single day while 306 ventilators were occupied across the country. Islamabad had a 54pc occupancy rate, Multan, 48pc; Lahore, 45pc and in Peshawar 30pc vents were in use. The data of oxygenated beds showed that 81pc were in use in Gujrat, followed by Peshawar with 61pc, Islamabad, 50pc and in Rawalpindi, 37pc beds were occupied. The number of active cases, which were 16,000 in January, reached 33,070 on March 22 while 2,955 patients were under treatment in hospitals.

Manufacturing of vaccine

On the other hand, it has been decided that the Chinese vaccine, Cansino, will be filled at the filling plant of the National Institute of Health (NIH) which will help cut its cost by 30pc. It will also pave the way for vaccine manufacturing in Pakistan under public-private partnership. The Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (Drap) has already notified two formulas for sale with 40pc mark-up for companies and additional 15pc for retailers/hospitals.

Besides, a summary has been submitted to the federal cabinet, suggesting the price of Russian vaccine Sputnik V at Rs8,449 per pack (two injections) and that of Cansino (a single dose vaccine) at Rs4,225. However, the vaccine will not be sold or distributed in the market and will be administered in private hospitals and institutions. Technical Adviser of AGM Pharma Dr Hassan Abbas Zaheer, while talking to Dawn, said Cansino vaccine would be brought in bulk in Pakistan and from next month would be packed at a filling plant in NIH.

“It will reduce the price of the vaccine by up to 30pc (around Rs3,000) and at a later stage, it will be manufactured in Pakistan through transfer of technology. This has been made possible because the clinical trial of Cansino was held in Pakistan,” Dr Zaheer said. It is worth mentioning that AGM Pharma has registered the vaccine in Pakistan.

The technical adviser said Pakistan was insecure in terms of vaccine manufacturing, but soon it would become a secure country as vaccine production would begin here and dependence on other nations would end. “The vaccine will be manufactured under public-private partnership project. Currently India’s vaccine anufacturing industry is worth $5 billion. Pakistan can also start producing a number of vaccines including Covid-19,” he said

This news was originally published at Dawn.