Tighter restrictions on public activities as second coronavirus wave sweeps Pakistan

Men wearing protective masks walk along a market amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Karachi on Oct. 14, 2020. (REUTERS/File)
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Updated 29 October 2020

Tighter restrictions on public activities as second coronavirus wave sweeps Pakistan

  • Planning minister says coronavirus positivity ratio had crossed three percent for the first time after over 70 days
  • Says virus spread could be curbed only if people “believe in the need for precautions”

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which leads coronavirus mitigation efforts across the country, announced that all business centers, wedding halls, restaurants and shopping malls would shut by 10p.m. from Thursday to curb the spread of the coronavirus, state run Radio Pakistan said.

The NCOC’s decision comes two days after Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health, Dr. Faisal Sultan, formally announced a second wave of the coronavirus in Pakistan, warning that imposing restrictions once again had become “inevitable.”

According to a government portal, 331,108 people have tested positive for coronavirus in Pakistan so far, and there have been 6,775 deaths.

“Essential services such as medical stores, clinics and hospitals will remain open and public parks have been asked to shut down by 6pm,” the NCOC said. 
Pakistan’s minister for planning Asad Umar, who also oversees the country’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts, said on Twitter that the national coronavirus positivity ratio had crossed three percent for the first time after over 70 days on Wednesday.

“NCOC has tightened restrictions on some high risk public activities,” Umar said. “However, the rising spread of the disease can only be controlled if people believe in the need for precautions

On Wednesday Pakistan announced that wearing masks in public places would now be mandatory and directed provincial government to ensure that masks were worn “particularly [in] bazaars, shopping malls, public transport and restaurants.”

“80 percent disease spread and increase positivity ratio in 11 major cities across Pakistan,” a statement from the NCOC statement said.

Local media reported that 4,374 lockdowns had been imposed in 11 cities, including Quetta, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Peshawar, Islamabad, Hyderabad, Mirpur, Karachi, Gilgit and Muzaffarabad.

Islamabad’s Deputy Commissioner Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat also issued a notification on Wednesday imposing Section 144 in the federal capital for two months and announcing that anyone visiting a public place without a face mask could be arrested.

In August, the government announced that virtually all sectors in Pakistan shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus would be reopened that month, other than schools and marriage halls, which opened in September. Since then, there has been a slow uptick in infection numbers.
 


PM's adviser denies UAE ban on import of workers from Pakistan

Updated 26 November 2020

PM's adviser denies UAE ban on import of workers from Pakistan

  • Zulfikar Bukhari says the number of Pakistani knowledge workers in the UAE has increased by 11 percent
  • Foreign office spokesperson rejects media reports characterizing 'the attitude of UAE authorities toward Pakistan as hostile'

ISLAMABAD: Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari denied a media report on Thursday, saying the United Arab Emirates had not imposed a ban on the import of Pakistani workforce.
According to a story published by Reuters on Wednesday, the UAE had stopped issuing new visas to the citizens of 13 Muslim-majority countries, including Pakistan.
The wire service maintained that it had seen a document issued by a state-owned business park in the Gulf state and quoted an unnamed source that claimed that the decision was taken due to security reasons.

Special Assistant to Prime Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Sayed Zulfikar Bukhari holds a virtual meeting with United Arab Emirates Minister for Human Resources and Emiratization Nasser bin Thani in Islamabad on November 26, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Ministry of Overseas Pakistanis)

Bukhari said in a Twitter post on Thursday, however, that he had discussed the issue with a top UAE official who categorically denied that such a ban had been imposed on the import of Pakistani workforce.

He added that the number of "Pakistani knowledge workers" had increased in the UAE by 11 percent, adding that the Pakistani nationals who were laid off during the pandemic and registered on Virtual Labor Market Databases were given priority.

Addressing the weekly media briefing, Pakistan's foreign office spokesperson Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri also maintained that the media report was not confirmed by the UAE authorities.
"The developments regarding a change in visa policy of the UAE for Pakistani nationals and its purported causes have not been confirmed by the UAE," he said during the press briefing on Thursday.
Chaudhri said the foreign ministry was in touch with UAE officials in this connection.
"We do not agree with the media reports that characterize the attitude of UAE authorities toward Pakistan as hostile," he continued, adding that millions of Pakistanis worked and peacefully resided in the Gulf country with the approval of its government.
"Isolated events should not be used to cast aspersions over the nature of Pakistan’s longstanding fraternal ties with the UAE," he said.