Saturday Jan 15 2022

Will schools be closed? NCOC to review COVID-19 situation on Jan 17

Students gather and wait outside a school building as secondary schools reopen amid the second wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Karachi, Pakistan January 18, 2021. — Reuters/File
Students gather and wait outside a school building as secondary schools reopen amid the second wave of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Karachi, Pakistan January 18, 2021. — Reuters/File

  • NCOC asks education, health ministers to decide new SOPs.
  • Forum to engage especially with Sindh to battle coronavirus.
  • Complete ban imposed on inflight serving of meals and snack.

ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on Saturday reviewed the existing protocols and called on the health and education ministers to suggest a new set of guidelines amid the fifth wave of coronavirus that has worried the government.

The new set of SOPs will be put forth in a meeting on January 17, with its focus on schools and the education sector as a whole, public gatherings, marriage ceremonies, indoor/outdoor dining, and the transport sector, according to a statement issued today.

The development came during a session of the NCOC, which was held to review the coronavirus trends in the country as the positivity ratio crossed 8%.

The forum discussed the epidemic curve chart data, disease prevalence, and proposed NPIs in wake of rising disease trends in the country, especially in the urban centres, it said.

Amid rising cases in the country due to the Omicron variant, the forum decided to extensively engage with provinces, especially with the Sindh government for necessary measures to tackle the rising coronavirus numbers.

Meals banned on flights, public transport

With regards to the aviation sector, the NCOC decided to implement a complete ban on inflight serving of meals and snacks with effect from January 17, the statement said.

The NCOC has asked the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to ensure inflight mask-wearing and also implement COVID-19 SOPs at all airports.

Similarly, serving meals and snacks in public transport will also be banned with effect from January 17.

Directives to federating units

The forum asked the federating units to take strict measures against violators of existing SOPs, especially those not wearing masks. It also directed them to ensure enforcement of obligatory vaccination regime.

NCOC also directed federating units to strictly enforce existing protocols especially in transport, education, and sectors; and in public spaces like restaurants and wedding halls.

Moreover, federating units were asked to carry out immediate surveys of health care facilities (including oxygenated beds), oxygen stocks, and reserves, the statement said.

The NCOC directed all quarters to fast-track vaccination drive and ramp up efforts to achieve vaccination targets, it added.

'60-70% Omicron cases'

Speaking to Geo News, officials of the Ministry of National Health Services Regulations and Coordination said cases of the Omicron variant were spreading at a fast pace in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad.

The officials said Omicron had now become the dominant variant in the country as 60-70% of the cases reported every day were of the new offshoot of the virus — which was first detected in Pakistan on December 13, 2021.

Most of the Omicron variant cases are being reported in Sindh, the officials said and warned that the variant might spread in smaller cities and towns.

Positivity ratio tops 8%

Pakistan reported the highest number of cases — 4,286 — since August 25, 2021, in the last 24 hours, the NCOC data showed Saturday morning, as compared to 3,567 a day earlier.

The positivity ratio also shot up to 8.16%, the highest since August 11, when 52,522 tests were conducted across the country, according to the NCOC data.

The overall cases have reached 1.32 million after the detection of new infections, while the death toll now stands at 29,003 as four deaths were reported from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours.