Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar has urged Pakistan to take standard operating procedures (SOPs) for curbing the spread of the coronavirus seriously. Image Credit: Bloomberg

Islamabad: Pakistan’s Minister for Planning and Special Initiative Asad Umar today cautioned against an ‘extremely’ high positivity rate of coronavirus in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad and Muzaffarabad.

While expressing concerns on the coronavirus situation in the country, Asad Umar said in a tweet “National positivity of COVID cases was 2.37% yesterday. This is the highest positivity in more than 50 days. Last time this level was seen on Aug 23. First 4 days of this week COVID deaths average is 11 per day... highest since week of Aug 10th. Unmistakable signs of rise of corona.”

Pakistan on Thursday reported 756 new cases of coronavirus and 13 deaths in a 24 hours period thus taking the total number of infections to 321,218 and casualties 6,614.

Time to take SOPs seriously

In another tweet, the minister said it was the time we should take COVID-19 seriously or “be prepared for restrictions.”

“COVID positivity is extremely high in Muzaffarabad, remains high in Karachi, rising in Lahore & Islamabad. Time for all of us to take Covid SOP’s seriously again. Otherwise, unfortunately we may have to take restrictive actions which have negative effects on people’s livelihoods.”

Opposition workers arrested ahead of Gujranwala rally

Meanwhile, the Punjab government has arrested some 400 workers of the main opposition parties—the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F)—three main parties of the anti-government alliance Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM).

These workers have been taken into custody from different parts of the Punjab over violation of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Coronavirus.

The arrests were made only a day ahead of the Opposition Parties’ public meeting to be held in Gujranwala on Oct 16 (Friday), the first show of power by the PDM.

According to the PML-N, Punjab police took scores of PDM workers into custody from Lahore and other districts to sabotage the Gujranwala rally.

Punjab issues new guidelines for gatherings

According to the Punjab government’s new health guidelines for public and official meetings in the wake of expected second wave of coronavirus pandemic, the gathering with uncertain profile and behaviours of participants has been categorised as a very high-risk gathering.

The gathering where the crowd is under semi-control condition is categorized as high risk gathering. For these events time, venue and duration is limited e.g. religious gathering (prayers assembly), marriage ceremonies, cultural events, sport events, awareness walks etc.

The third category is ‘control gathering’ where participation is under control. In such gatherings, the participants would have some professional background and can understand COVID-19 SOPs easily e.g. professional conferences, academic exhibitions, seminars etc.

The fourth category is ‘Fully Controlled Gathering.’ It means a gathering where participation and crowd management are under full control. Participants are trained on COVID-19 SOPs and realise official obligations to comply with the precautions, the guidelines further explain.