ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Health Minister Abdul Qadir Patel on Friday called on the public to take precautionary measures as coronavirus cases once again rise in the country, calling masks “essential” during the upcoming Eid Al-Adha holiday and urging people not to shake hands and hug.
Pakistan has had very few COVID-19 cases over recent months and had done away with almost all precautions.
But over the past 24 hours, the national COVID positivity ratio had risen to 3.93 percent with 694 positive cases, nearly double the number at the start of the week on Monday, according to data released on Friday by the National Institute of Health, Islamabad (NIH).
“We must take precautionary measures against coronavirus and ensure social distancing,” Patel said in a statement. “Mask wearing is essential during the time of Eid-ul-Adha and avoid going to crowded places.”
The minister appealed to religious scholars to ensure social distancing at mosques and urged the public to avoid hugging and shaking hands during the Eid holidays.
On Thursday, Pakistan issued fresh standard operating procedures (SOPs) for government office.
The NIH in a notification urged government staffers to avoid shaking hands and mandated wearing face masks and incorporating social distancing in seating plans and during prayers.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired a meeting to take stock of the coronavirus situation urging masses to take precautions against the infection.
Pakistan disbanded the National Command and Operations Center, its main pandemic response body, on March 31 as infections fell to the lowest since the outbreak began in 2020.
However, the South Asian country on May 23 reconstituted the NCOC at the NIH after health officials detected a new omicron sub-variant in a passenger arriving from Qatar. The new sub-variant of omicron is said to be highly infectious, though not as deadly as previous coronavirus strains.
Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) last week once again made it mandatory for all passengers on domestic flights to wear masks. Authorities are also urging eligible individuals to get booster vaccine shots.
There have been 1,536,479 infections and 30,395 coronavirus-related deaths reported in Pakistan since the pandemic began.