Life might be returning to normal with the Pakistan Government lifting restrictions and reopening restaurants, salons, theaters, tourism, and educational institutions. The NCC meeting presided over by Prime Minister Imran Khan came to the conclusion that with the success of a decline in the spread of the virus, that several services such as restaurants, theaters, beauty parlors, etc will be opening from Monday, the 10th of August.
Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives, Asad Umar said in a briefing in the National Coordination Committee (NCC), that the pandemic had been contained owing to the the tireless efforts of medical staff and the effective strategies enforced by Pakistan’s institutions. Umar went on to add, “restaurants and cafes, outdoor and indoor, will be allowed to open from 10th August and standard operating procedures (SOPs) will be finalized in next two to three days. Moreover, public parks, theaters, cinemas, amusement parks, arcades, expo centers and beauty parlors will also be allowed to open from Monday,”
Concerning educational institutions, Umar said the National Coordination Committee (NCC) taking recommendations by the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) under consideration decided that all the educational institutions will be opening from the 15th of September after a final review by the Ministry of Education on the 7th of September. “It has been decided that educational institutions will open from Sept 15, but a final review will be carried out on Sept 7 as the federal education minister will consult with provincial ministers on the matter,” said Umar.
Government Lifting Restrictions
As for the transportation sector, restrictions on railways, airlines, and metro buses will be lifted and restrictions on tourism will be lifted as soon as August 8th as the SOPs for this sector have been finalized. Restriction on pillion riding and road travel are also being lifted, however, restrictions on the number of people allowed to travel by trains, planes and buses and the mandatory gap between the passengers will remain in place till September. These restrictions will be lifted by October if everything goes to plan. Standing while using public transport, i.e. buses, will also not be allowed. “Passengers will be able to travel on the airplanes in a normal manner from October 1,” said Umar.
Marriage halls will also potentially open from September 15, hotels could host marriage ceremonies as well, and shrines might also be opening to the public. However, in large gatherings, citizens will have follow the guidelines issued by the provincial governments. Indoor gyms and sports clubs will also be opening and permission will be given to organize tournaments and matches involving non-contact sports without the presence of audience.
Restaurants, eateries and the hospitality sector were of key importance to secretary general Chaudhry Mohammad Farooq who praised the decision to open restaurants and marriage halls. It is a thriving sector which has faced a lot of hardship since the lock-down, endangering the livelihood of 10 million people who are directly and indirectly affected by it according to Farooq. Umar echoed this sentiment, “The hospitality sector, restaurants, cafes… a lot of people work in this sector and they were facing a lot of hardship.”
Farooq added that during successive meetings of the association with members of the federal cabinet, they had accepted the undertaking to ensure proper precaution is taken to counter the spread of Covid-19 in the dining areas of restaurants.
The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), a representative body of doctors, was not as pleased with the government lifting restrictions adding that the government should have at least waited for the consequences of Eid-ul-Azha to unfold. PMA secretary general Dr Qaisar Sajjad said while talking to Dawn, “it will take 10 days to know if the virus rapidly spread during Eid-ul-Azha. There are some events such as 14th August on which once again people will start gathering. Moreover, Majalis will be held during Muharram due to which another spike can be observed.”
Umar addressed these concerns saying, “if we see a change in the attitude of the people, this situation may change [further]. The SOPs related to Muharram have been set up in consultation with the Ulema.” Umar urged that “people should not take it as complete victory as the situation can reverse in case of change in attitude of people. I appeal to the people to take more precautionary measures than before. I used to feel suffocated wearing a face mask for half an hour but now I wear it for eight to ten hours a day while participating in meetings.”
The restrictions were imposed on the 16th of March to contain the pandemic. Neighboring India also saw the government lifting restrictions and opening up sectors to the public and has seen the number of cases double in 20 days, hitting the 2 million mark.