The measures came as the country’s single-day tally of new coronavirus cases continued to rise by more than 2,000 this week, which the health officials described as the second wave of the deadly contagion.
The AJK government on Wednesday issued a notification regarding the lockdown, which will run from November 22 to December 6. During the two weeks of the lockdown, the government placed a blanket ban on public gatherings.
All political, religious and social gatherings will be banned during the lockdown, however, prayers inside the mosques would be allowed subject to strict adherence to the anti-Covid standard operating procedures (SOPs). Funeral prayers will be restricted to 50 people.
All public and private sector educational institutions, including religious schools, wedding halls, shopping malls, barber shops, beauty parlours and private clinics will be closed. Dine-in facility in restaurants will also not be allowed but the take-away service will be permitted.
Only 50% staff will attend offices of the government and semi-government institutions, with a total ban on the visitors. Masks must be worn outside home, while any violation of the rule would invoke a fine of Rs500.
Groceries, medical stores, bakeries, vegetable and fruit shops, dairy shops, ovens would be open from 7am to 7pm. Public transport will run under the SOPs. Tourists’ movement will also be restricted in the region during the lockdown period, according to the notification.
Following the increase in number of coronavirus cases, the local administration has decided to impose smart lockdown in nine more areas of the provincial capital, where the new cases of Covid-19 have emerged in significant numbers.
According to officials, smart lockdowns have also been imposed in several areas of Multan, Bakhar, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur. They added that free movement of citizens had been restricted in these affected areas.
Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department Secretary Capt (retd) Muhammad Usman said the government would impose smart lockdown in all those areas where number of coronavirus positive cases were rising.
The notifications came as the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) said that the total active Covid-19 cases in Pakistan topped 30,000 after 2208 more people tested positive for the deadly virus, while 37 coronavirus patients died during the last 24 hours.
It said that 38,544 tests were conducted across the country on Tuesday, including 12,430 in Sindh, 15,003 in Punjab, 3,473 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), 5,975 in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), 626 in Balochistan, 297 in Gilgit Baltistan (G-B) and 740 in AJK.
Since the pandemic outbreak, a total of 363,380 cases have been detected so far, including 5,640 in AJK, 16,529 in Balochistan, 4,467 in G-B, 24,871 in ICT, 42,815 in K-P, 111,626 in Punjab and 157,432 in Sindh. So far 325,788 people have recovered, while there were 30,362 active cases.
The nationwide death toll from the disease since it first emerged in the country in February this year, has risen to 7,230 – 2,760 in Sindh, 2, 509 in Punjab, 1,318 in K-P, 263 in ICT, 156 in Balochistan, 93 in G-B and 131 in AJK.
Govt proposes 2-month-long winter break
The Federal Ministry of Education on Wednesday sent proposals to provinces asking them to close primary schools from November 24 to January 31, 2021 as coronavirus cases are on the rise.
The ministry has proposed that primary schools should be closed from November 24, while middle schools should be closed from December 2.
The final decision will be made on November 23 when the provincial education ministers meet to reach a consensus on educational institutions closure in the light of the pandemic.
The development comes a day after Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani had said that school children will not be granted winter vacations this year.
The provincial minister had said students have been given more holidays than usual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Therefore, there’s no question of winter vacations right now,” he had said.
He added that a final decision on the matter will be taken during a National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) meeting scheduled for late November.
Ghani’s statement came after Federal Minister of Education Shafqat Mahmood convened a special meeting of education ministers to decide on an NCOC recommendation to announce early and extended winter vacations.
Since there was no consensus, a decision on the matter was deferred till next week.
NCC makes important decisions
The National Coordination Committee has imposed an immediate ban on large gatherings as the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread in the country.
According to a statement issued, the NCC has imposed a ban on outdoor gatherings that have more than 300 attendees.
The NCC said that the management of any event will be responsible for implementing Standard Operations Procedures (SOPs) pertaining to coronavirus.
If the event leads to the spread of the virus, the management will be held responsible.
On marriages, it said that a ban would be imposed on indoor gatherings from November 20 and that only outdoor events will be permitted with an upper limit of 300 people.
Moreover, it said that the NCC would convene a meeting next week to decided on imposing a ban on indoor dining at restaurents, adding that people will be encouraged to eat outdoors or take food home.
Local authorities will ensure that people wear masks in all crowded spaces, the NCC added.