ISLAMABAD: Despite a considerable rise in the number of Covid-19 cases over the past few days, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) has ruled out the option of imposing a complete lockdown in the country and endorsed all the measures announced by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Oct 28 which included strict implementation of the SOPs (standard operating procedures) at public places and reduction in timings for markets and commercial activities.The NCC, which met under Prime Minister Imran Khan here on Tuesday, also decided to continue the smart lockdown policy and strictly implement the NCOC decisions.All the four provincial chief ministers attended the NCC meeting through video link.According to an official announcement, the prime minister directed all stakeholders to maintain a balance between disease control measures and livelihood of people. He particularly called for ramping up hospital care to cater for any rise in Covid-19 cases, particularly critical care equipment.

Endorses NCOC decisions to restrict market, park timings in 11 citiesThe prime minister directed the NCOC to formulate a future course of action in consultation with all stakeholders and issue necessary guidelines.The NCOC members apprised the prime minister of the present Covid-19 situation and current pattern of the disease spread and increasing positivity ratio.Addressing a media briefing with his economic team before attending the NCC meeting, Prime Minister Khan said the government had decided not to close businesses and industries in the wake of second spike in the pandemic.“We have decided that we will not close down businesses and industries. In case of the rise in coronavirus cases, we will close only those things which do not damage the industries. Otherwise, we will run the businesses and industries, but with SOPs,” the prime minister said.

Mr Khan appealed to the public to wear face mask to avoid spread of the pandemic as carelessness in this regard could cause damage to the country. He gave the examples of India and Iran where, he said, the situation was worsening.The prime minister said that with the arrival of winter they needed to make decisions carefully. He said that with Allah’s blessings Pakistan had so far come out of the difficult situation, but there was a fear of a second spike in the pandemic.He said Pakistan was the only country in the subcontinent which had economically come out of the Covid-19 situation with a great pace and the whole world had acknowledged it. During the pandemic time, he said, Pakistan ranked high among the countries of subcontinent with growth in exports.

Speaking on the occasion, Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umer said the government would continue its smart lockdown policy during the second wave of Covid-19 without putting additional pressure on the common man.Mr Umer, who also heads the NCOC on Covid-19, said smart lockdown and protecting employment opportunities at the same time were hallmark of the government strategy during the pandemic.The minister said the government would also adopt the same strategy during the second wave so that economic activities could not get affected. He said the government had adopted the comprehensive strategy for early revival of the local industry in the post-pandemic scenario. Due to such prudent strategies of the government, he said, the local economy was rapidly reviving as compared to other countries of the world.Covid-19 casesAccording to data available on NCOC’s website, a total of 1,167 new coronavirus cases and 14 deaths were reported across the country during the last 24 hours. The condition of 728 patients is stated to be critical. During the last 24 hours, a total 27,984 tests were conducted, taking the total number of tests so far conducted in the country to 4,514,827.The NCOC had in its meeting on Oct 28 announced a schedule for commercial and social activities in 11 cities which are most vulnerable to the deadly coronavirus.Since 80 per cent Covid-19 cases had been reported in Karachi, Lahore, Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Multan, Hyderabad, Gilgit, Muzaffarabad, Mirpur, Peshawar and Quetta, the NCOC decided that in these cities, the commercial activities — markets, shopping malls, marriage halls and restaurants — would be closed at 10pm and amusement/public parks at 6pm.The NCOC had also made wearing of mask mandatory at public places, announcing that a fine and punishment of imprisonment could be slapped on the violators. It had directed the provinces to ensure compliance with mask wearing SOPs, particularly in bazaars, shopping malls, public transport and restaurants.Meetings cancelledThe National Assembly and Senate secretariats on Tuesday announced that all their offices and sections would remain closed to contain exponential spread of coronavirus cases.The Senate secretariat announced that all meetings of the committees scheduled to be held between Nov 4 and 9 had been cancelled.According to an office order issued by the National Assembly secretariat, all the meetings scheduled to be held between Nov 6 and 9 had been cancelled. It said the NA Secretariat will remain closed till Nov 6 for purpose of disinfection.Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2020

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