ISLAMABAD - The federal government on Monday decided to re-impose pandemic-related restrictions in selected major cities of the country from today (August 3) to August 31 to prevent further spread of Covid-19, especially delta variant of the virus, in the on-going fourth wave. 

Federal Minister for Planning and head of National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) Asad Umar announced the revised restrictions for a number of cities while addressing a joint press conference here along with Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan.

The decision to re-impose restrictions was made in a meeting of the NCOC chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The minister said that that there was continuous spread of virus during the last week and the positivity rate and the number of Covid-19 patients being admitted to the hospitals have increased significantly - a reason to re-impose restrictions.

The new restrictions will apply to Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad and Multan in Punjab; Peshawar and Abbottabad in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh (after Sindh government’s partial lockdown in Sindh ends on Aug 8); Muzaffarabad and Mirpur in Azad Jammu & Kashmir; and Gilgit and Skardu in Gilgit-Baltistan. 

Giving the details, the minister said that the closure of markets timing has been reduced from 10 pm to 8 pm. He said that two safe days in a week to be observed instead of one day and businesses and markets would remain closed for these days. But provinces would be free to choose the two safe days of their own choice, he added.

Asad said there was weak compliance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for indoor dining and the local administration had been saying that it was impossible to go and check every restaurant. The government had made it mandatory that indoor dining would be allowed for only those guests who are vaccinated. “Thus, indoor dining is being banned but outdoor dining will continue but it is being reduced from 12 am to 10 pm, while take away and delivery will remain open for 24 hours a day.”

He said that the policy of 50 percent work from home in offices is being re-imposed again and the public transport would operate with 50 percent occupancy.

He hoped that the re-imposition of restrictions will decrease the rise in spread of pandemic in the same manner as these had proved helpful during one, second and thirds waves.  

The minister reminded that the prime minister was totally against imposing complete lockdown from very beginning of the pandemic outbreak in the country. At that time, our decisions were targeted and gradual as the weak segments of the society are affected due to the restrictions, he said. “The restrictions have to be imposed in phases as we not only have to safeguard the health of the people but have to take care of people’s livelihoods.”  

He said a large portion of their society was daily wagers who could not afford a complete lockdown. Due to this reason, the government in the past had developed a successful policy of smart lock down which remained successful in the first three waves and decision to re-impose restrictions has been by following the same policy, he added. He said that the government was monitoring the daily situation and further decisions about imposition of restrictions would be made if needed.

The minister also called upon the people to get themselves vaccinated as early as possible to keep themselves safe from the delta variant of the virus. He said as per data, the people who got first dose of Covid vaccine were three times safer than those who were not inoculated yet while the people with both doses were three times safer than those who got only first jab.

The new restrictions come after the Sindh government imposed a province-wide partial lockdown on Friday from July 31 to August 8.

The fourth wave of the pandemic is on the rise in the country as according to NCOC, as many 4858 new case of the virus and 40 deaths have been reported during the last 24 hours with 8.61 positivity rate. The health experts say that there is surge in delta variant of the virus in the country which was first detected in India.