Pakistan scrapping all remaining COVID-19 restrictions: Asad Umar

Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar (L) and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan addressing a press conference after the NCOC meeting. — YouTube screengrab

                                     Federal Minister for Planning and Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Wednesday said that the government is scrapping all the COVID-19 related restrictions across Pakistan.

“The pandemic has not ended yet but undergoing the ending phase,” Umar said while addressing a press briefing of Asad Umar, flanked by SAPM on Health Dr Faisal Sultan at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

Umar, who is also the NCOC chief, said that after reviewing the COVID-19 situation in the country in detail, the forum has decided to lift all coronavirus restrictions, including protocols for indoor dining, indoor wedding events and markets, sports activities and all the other SOPs across Pakistan.

However, he said that the only restriction that would continue is the vaccination against COVID-19, but that too till the vaccination ratio reaches 80% or above.

“Then we will consider if we still need to keep the restriction for vaccination in place,” he said.

The NCOC’s data for Wednesday showed that 493 new coronavirus cases were reported in the last 24 hours while the positivity ratio stood at 1.42%.

Earlier, the government had also decided to shut down the NCOC by the end of next month and the responsibilities of the forum will be carried out by the National Institute of Health.

‘COVID-19 cases witnessing decline for 7 weeks’

“The positivity ratio has been continuously decreasing in the country for the last seven to eight weeks,” the minister said, adding that the number of patients’ admission to hospitals has also declined.

He said that the NCOC observed that the number of patients in critical care units has not only dipped but has also fallen to the lowest level since October 2020, while a further decline is expected.

Further explaining the COVID-19 situation, Umar said that 78% of the population, eligible for vaccination against the virus — individuals above the age of 12 — have received the first dose of anti-COVID-19 vaccine, while 70% have been fully vaccinated.

‘Pandemic is not over’

“Taking the situation into account, we have to come out of this pandemic and for that we need a period of transition to move towards normal life,” he said.

He said that God knows whether the pandemic will completely end but currently if seems like it will linger on and be a part of life across the globe.

However, Umar clarified that the removal of restrictions “doesn’t mean the pandemic is over” and the government would continue to monitor the situation.

He admitted that the NCOC understands that lifting of restriction would affect the number of cases; however, the decision has been taken after a lot of deliberation.

Terming this decision as a “biggest stage,” he congratulated the nation for facing the unprecedented challenges of COVID-19.

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