The number of Covid cases has been rising sharply in Pakistan, partly thanks to the delta variant. By the end of May, almost 33% of the cases in 2 weeks were identified as delta. The exact spread of the variant is unknown because Pakistan does not have the ability to perform a lot of sequencing of covid tests. It has resulted in another lockdown in Pakistan covering 4 cities of Punjab; Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, and Rawalpindi. Previously, Prime Minister Imran khan imposed a “smart” lockdown which was basically a selective closure of places. This time it is somewhat the same but has provided full closure on some of the facilities. On the contrary, Sindh Government had imposed a full lockdown for 9 days on 31st July. Both governments criticize each other for imposing the wrong type of lockdown.
Lockdown in Pakistan After Worsening Pandemic
The full lockdown in Sindh came on Saturday after Pakistan suffered more than 5000 coronavirus cases in one day. According to reports, Karachi was running out of hospital beds and oxygen tanks which was why the Sindh government thought it was necessary. There are currently up to 360,000 cases in Punjab and 390,000 in Sindh, making both of them the most affected provinces of Pakistan. Critics of the Punjab government preferred the Sindh kind of lockdown while critics of the Sindh government opined that such lockdown was a nightmare for the employment ratio in the province.
Total cases have crossed the 1 million mark with a positivity ratio increasing to 8%. The federal government was still convinced that stronger lockdown restrictions would damage the “economic progress” they have made so far. National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) decided to impose new restrictions after realizing the impact of the worsening pandemic.
Schedule of Market and Business Activities under New Restrictions
As per the notification from the Punjab government, all commercial activities are allowed to operate till 8:00 PM. All kinds of indoor gatherings have been banned and outdoor gatherings are allowed to have a maximum of 400 individuals. Similarly, with wedding functions, only 400 guests can be allowed for the outdoor events till 10:00 PM. Restaurants will no longer entertain indoor dining from 8th August onwards but outdoor dining can continue till 10:00 PM.
There are also blanket bans on shrines, cinemas, amusement parks, swimming pools, water sports, and contact sports. Gyms and controlled tourism will remain open for fully vaccinated members. Private and public office timings are the same as before but the required attendance level is reduced from 100% to 50%. Occupancy of seats in railway is also reduced to 70% and public transport to 50%. Snacks and refreshments during the journey have now been banned under the new lockdown in Pakistan.
Businesses that are exempt from new lockdown restrictions include industry and agriculture, medical stores and facilities, vaccination centers, petrol pumps, auto workshops, bakeries, dairy, food, telecom and internet services, call centers, utility services, postage services, and all Mandis. These are also exempt from closed days that are Saturdays and Sundays.
Pakistan Travel Bans
Despite imposing a “smart” lockdown in Pakistan, the government was unable to curb the spread of the virus. Pakistan is also lagging in vaccination, resulting in the faster spread of the virus. Only 3% of the population is fully vaccinated. Around 19 countries have banned Pakistanis from entering. These countries are Bahrain, Brunei, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Japan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Malawi, Maldives, New Zealand, Norway, Oman, Philippines Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand, United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
There are several conditions, if travelers can meet them then they can visit however the destination countries have strongly advised against traveling without any necessary reason. UAE was only on this list but recently lifted the travel ban on Pakistan and other countries. The move came despite the worsening situation in Pakistan and science being unsure whether available vaccines are effective against the delta variant or not.