ISLAMABAD (our reporter):- The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) finally issued Wednesday revised coronavirus guidelines and SOPs for the education, restaurant, entertainment, and other sectors as Pakistan continues its battle against a fifth wave of the pandemic and struggles to contain the spread of the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In cities and districts with positivity higher than 10%, the classes for children under 12 years will continue on “staggered” days, classes will be conducted daily for fully-vaccinated students above 12 years of age.

In the cities and districts which have a positivity ratio of up to 10%, the classes will continue as usual, but with stringent COVID-19 protocols intact, as per NCOC’s guidelines.

With effect from February 1, at least one dose for students above 12 years will be mandatory and no exemption other than medical reasons will be entertained, the NCOC guidelines stated.

“Aggressive sentinel testing in educational institutions will be carried out for targeted closures in high disease prevalence education institutes,” the NCOC said.

Federating units in consultations with health authorities will set a number/percentage for closure of education institutes, the forum stated.

The decisions were taken during an NCOC session held today in Islamabad with Federal Minister for Planning, Development, and Special Initiatives Asad Umar in the chair, a statement from the forum said.

The forum took a “detailed review” of the current trend of the pandemic in the country and after a “deliberate and consultative process”, it has agreed upon the following non-pharmaceutical interventions

According to the SOP, cities or district having positivity about from ten percent,  indoor gatherings of all types, including weddings, will be banned from January 24. Outdoor gatherings, including weddings, will be allowed with a cap of fully vaccinated 300 guests — applicable from Jan 24.

There will be a complete ban on indoor dining. However, outdoor dining for fully vaccinated citizens and takeaway service will be allowed. Indoor Gyms at 50% capacity for fully vaccinated individuals will be allowed. Cinemas will be allowed to open at 50% capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only. Shrines are allowed to open at 50% capacity for fully vaccinated individuals only.

Amusement  parks will be allowed to open at 50% capacity for fully vaccinated people only.There would be a complete ban on contact sports like karate, boxing, martial arts, water polo, kabaddi and wrestling.

Schools will be allowed to open with 50% attendance (staggered days) for students below the age of 12 years. For students (fully vaccinated) over 12 years, the NCOC has recommended 100% attendance.

The cities with less than 10 percent positivity ratio, indoor gatherings are allowed with a maximum limit of 300 guests (fully vaccinated), while outdoor events can be held with a maximum limit of 500 guests. Indoor and outdoor dining is permitted for fully vaccinated individuals only, while takeaways are allowed 24/7. Indoor gyms are open for fully vaccinated individuals only. while shrines will be allowed to Open for fully vaccinated individuals only. Parks will be allowed to open for fully vaccinated individuals only while sports are allowed for vaccinated individuals.

Children will continue to attend schools with strict SOPs, while those above 12-years of age must have to be fully vaccinated.

The NCOC has decided to open businesses without time restrictions in the country according to the Cabinet resolve.

Public buses will be allowed to operate with 70% of their seating capacity. Wearing masks will be mandatory throughout the journey, with a complete ban on serving meals/snacks. Restrictions will come into force from January 20.

Railways will operate with 80% occupancy level from January 24. Offices will be allowed to operate at 100% capacity with normal working hours. However, work from home is encouraged. There will be a complete ban on meal/beverages serving during the in-flight journey for domestic travel.

Regarding to education sector, With effect from February 2022 vaccination for students above 12 years will be mandatory (at least one dose). No exemption other than medical reasons will be entertained. Aggressive sentinel testing in educational institutions will be carried out for targeted closures in high disease prevalence education institutes.

Federating units in consultations with health authorities will set a number/percentage for closure of education institutes. Compliance to compulsory mask wearing while incorporating innovative measures for enforcement. Strict adherence to SOPs in mosques and other places of worship be ensured by all federating units. Targeted lockdown with stringent enforcement protocols based on risk assessment will continue.

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