Pakistan decides to end all COVID-19 restrictions amid dwindling new cases

The Pakistani government has decided to scrap all the COVID-19 related restrictions nationwide amid a continuous downward trend in the number of new cases, with experts and officials calling for continued surveillance and vaccination process.

Asad Umar, chairman of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which oversees the country's response to the pandemic, said on Wednesday that Pakistan is removing restrictions as it has come close to eliminating the pandemic in the country.

"We have decided that all the restrictions we have imposed related to the coronavirus. We are ending all of them ... We need a transition process towards a normal, ordinary life," the chairman said during a press conference in Islamabad.

However, he said that all restrictions on citizens not vaccinated against the coronavirus would remain in place until 80-85 percent of the eligible population is fully vaccinated, adding that the government would keep monitoring the disease prevalence on a daily basis to decide for any change in policy in future.

Pakistan witnessed a major decline in the daily COVID-19 case count. The country reported 493 new infections over the past 24 hours, with the positivity rate falling to 1.42 percent, the NCOC said on Wednesday.

Pakistani experts and officials believe that though the coronavirus restrictions are being lifted in the country, the threat of the pandemic is not over yet, urging the public to continue taking precautions and vaccines to fully defeat the deadly disease.

Talking to Xinhua, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Faisal Sultan said that Pakistan has successfully overcome the challenge of COVID-19 due to prudent policies and measures taken by the government.

Provincial governments, healthcare professionals, media, and scholars played a vital role in controlling the pandemic, he said, adding that vigorous vaccination process helped the country in curbing the virus spread.

At the moment, over 70 percent of the eligible population has been fully vaccinated, and over 80 percent received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, "which is quite encouraging" for the country of over 220 million population, Sultan said.

Calling the termination of COVID-19 restrictions "a positive sign" for the country, Fawad Khan, an Islamabad-based health expert, said that as the government has taken the risk of opening up the country for the sake of people, now responsibility lies on people's shoulders to keep following standard operating procedures.

"The government and health institutions should continue its surveillance and vaccination campaign dynamically to ensure COVID-19 would not raise its ugly head again in Pakistan," he told Xinhua.  

by Raheela Nazir

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