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Pakistan Ends All COVID Restrictions

by Staff Report

File photo of Planning Minister Asad Umar and SAPM Dr. Faisal Sultan

Planning minister says decision taken in view of pandemic’s decline nationwide but stresses that restrictions on unvaccinated will remain

Planning Minister Asad Umar on Wednesday announced that the government is ending all COVID-19-related restrictions nationwide, as Pakistan is nearing the “elimination” of the pandemic.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad alongside Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan, he said that the government had decided to end all existing restrictions on indoor dining, markets, religious gatherings, athletic activities, and wedding receptions. “We are ending all of them,” he said, while adding that this would only apply to vaccinated individuals, while restrictions would remain for anyone who had yet to be inoculated against the coronavirus.

Emphasizing that this decision did not mean the pandemic was “over,” he said the government would continue to monitor the disease prevalence on a daily basis and take corrective measures in case any untoward situation developed again. “At the moment, we have decided that we have come so close to eliminating the pandemic, we should take the risk of what happens by opening [up the country],” he said, while admitting that there was a risk that this would result in a new surge of cases.

Summarizing the current trend of COVID-19, Umar said that the national positivity ratio had now been declining for seven to eight weeks. This, he said, had also resulted in the country having the lowest number of patients requiring critical care since October 2020. Additionally, he said, 78 percent of the eligible population had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 70 percent had now been fully vaccinated.

“We need a transition process toward a normal, ordinary life because it seems at the moment that the pandemic will continue and become a part of our lives,” he said, adding that the government also planned to end all restrictions on the unvaccinated as soon as 80-85 percent of the eligible population had been fully vaccinated.

Congratulating the nation for overcoming the “very big challenge” posed by the pandemic and its restrictions, he said this was a result of unity amongst both the center and the provincial governments. “The Pakistan Army had a very big role. All the operational work of the NCOC was the responsibility of a special army contingent,” he said, as he also thanked the judiciary for its support and healthcare professionals and prominent personalities for educating the public on the pandemic.

He especially thanked healthcare workers, especially female healthcare personnel, for the role they had played in helping Pakistan overcome the pandemic.

During his turn, Dr. Sultan said the decision to end restrictions was motivated by the clear reduction in pressure on the healthcare system, as well as indications that another increase in the disease prevalence was unlikely. Reiterating that vaccination was essential to keeping the country safe, he claimed the lessons learned from dealing with the pandemic would be implemented in institutions to try and make permanent improvements.

“We will keep monitoring the situation continuously and see where cases are [rising] globally and in Pakistan and if a change in strategy is needed,” he added.

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