A student receives a doze of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a school in Karachi, on January 20, 2022. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Despite vaccination of Pakistan’s 35 per cent total population and 52 per cent eligible population, the number of COVID-19 cases are increasing steadily forcing the National Command and Operation Centre

(NCOC) to announce a number of restrictions, including banning unvaccinated individuals’ entry into mosques, enforcing smart lockdown and staggered attendance at schools.

According to the decision taken by the NCOC on Saturday, only vaccinated individuals will be allowed entry into mosques and other places of worship.

The notification issued by the NCOC said those wishing to enter places of worship were required to wear masks and maintain a social distance of 6 feet along with frequent hand sanitisation.

The NCOC undertook a detailed review of the coronavirus’s current situation in the country and agreed to implement a series of health protocols to stem its spread.

It has also directed that carpets at places of worship be removed and attendance for prayers should be minimal.

Brief sermons in Friday prayers

The  notification decided that Friday sermons should be brief, and doors and windows should remain open to ensure ventilation, though it would be preferable to hold prayers in open spaces.

It also advised the elderly people with co-morbidities to “preferably offer prayers at home” and also recommended that ablutions should be performed at home.

A day earlier (Friday) Pakistan recorded highest number of daily COVID-19 cases since the outbreak of the pandemic (7,678 cases in 24 hours).

Pakistan on Saturday recorded 6,540 new cases of COVID-19 after 58,902 tests conducted in 24 hours.

The country’s positivity rate came down to 11.10 per cent on Saturday from 12.93 per cent on Friday.

The NCOC data shows 12 lives were lost to COVID-19 in last one day while 1,119 recovered from the coronavirus in this period.

The number of active cases has also jumped to 63,344, the NCOC stats reveal.

Over 1,000 patients shifted to critical care units

More than 1,000 patients infected with coronavirus have been shifted to critical care across Pakistan, according to official figures, as the COVID situation worsens due to the Omicron variant.

The NCOC has also announced that all schools in areas with a high COVID-19 positivity ratio would remain closed for one week across the country and after that the students in such areas would attend schools only two days a week.

Earlier this week, the forum had banned indoor gatherings, weddings and dining in districts and cities with a positivity rate exceeding 10 per cent as part of the new curbs to deal with the 5th wave.

With a sharp increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Islamabad, smart lockdown has been enforced in 25 localities in several residential sectors of the capital besides closure of a dozen educational institutions.

According to District Health Officer (DHO) Dr Zaeem Zia, 892 people tested positive after 7,078 tests conducted in 24 hours.

The coronavirus positivity in the federal capital remained 12.6 per cent.

Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat said 25 streets were sealed where citizens had tested positive in the last couple of days, however, exemptions to the order include essential services and supplies like pharmacy and medicine shops, grocery stores and bakeries, patients in need of medical aid/medical consultation, drinking water supplies, utilities, and emergency.