PAKISTAN covid vaccine moderna
A man receives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from a health worker at a vaccination centre in Lahore. Image Credit: AP

Islamabad: Pakistan on Wednesday tightened COVID-19 restrictions in cities where coronavirus positivity rate is above 10 per cent as Omicron-driven fifth wave intensifies in the country.

Pakistan recorded a new five-month high in coronavirus infections with 5,472 new cases in the last 24 hours. This is the first time since August last year that daily infections exceeded the number of 5,000. At least 8 people died of the virus on January 18. The hospitalisation rate has jumped by 2.5 times while the occupancy at ICUs increased by 30 per cent, health officials said.

New COVID-19 curbs

The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), which oversees the pandemic response, announced new curbs including a ban on indoor dining and weddings in COVID-19 hotspots. The new restrictions will remain in place from January 20 to 31 while the ban on weddings will remain effective until February 15. The highest positivity rate of 40 per cent was reported in Karachi followed by 21 per cent in Muzaffarabad, 15 per cent in Lahore and 11.8 per cent in Islamabad.

The new rules apply to the fully vaccinated individuals as the unvaccinated are already locked out of public life.

Gatherings: Indoor gatherings are banned and a maximum of 300 vaccinated people can attend outdoor events in areas with more than 10 per cent positivity rate. Indoor and outdoor events are allowed with limited capacity in other cities.

Weddings: Indoor weddings are banned and maximum 300 people can attend outdoor weddings in cities with a more than 10 per cent positivity rate. Limited capacity wedding events allowed in other cities and districts. The curbs will remain enforced from January 24 till February 15.

-Educational institutes to remain open under strict COVID-19 protocols for students under and above 12 years (vaccinated). There would be staggered 50 per cent attendance for those under 12 and 100 per cent attendance for those over 12 in hotspots.
-Aggressive sentinel testing to be conducted in schools.
-Vaccination will be mandatory for students above 12 years (at least one dose) from February 1 with no exception other than specific medical conditions.

Dining: There will be a complete ban on indoor dining and outdoor dining is only allowed for fully vaccinated people in districts with above 10 per cent positivity ratio.

Travel: Occupancy ratio in public transport would be at 70 per cent and 80 per vent in railways with mandatory mask-wearing. Pakistan has also banned serving meals on public transport and domestic flights.

Work: Normal working hours with 100 per cent employee attendance to be observed at offices, however, work from home is encouraged.

Business: Markets and business activities would continue without any restrictions. Despite the sharp rise in cases, the government has said that it would “refrain from taking steps that would harm business and economic activity.”

Gyms, cinemas, shrines, amusement parks: Indoor activities permitted at only 50 per cent capacity for fully vaccinated citizens in cities where the positivity ratio exceeded 10 per cent. Indoor activities are only allowed for vaccinated citizens across Pakistan.

Sports: All sports activities are allowed for fully vaccinated citizens only but there will be a ban on contact sports such as karate, boxing, martial arts, rugby, water polo, wrestling and kabaddi in districts with above 10 per cent positivity rate.

Over one-third of Pakistan’s 220 million population is now fully vaccinated. Nearly 102 million have received at least one dose, according to NCOC data.