All businesses, hotels, parks, recreational spots and shopping malls will remain closed from May 8 to May 16, covering the Eid al-Fitr holidays from May 10 to May 15 in Pakistan.
ISLAMABAD, May 9 (Xinhua) -- In its efforts to curb the third wave of COVID-19, the Pakistani government has ramped up restrictions across the country for the upcoming holidays of the Eid al-Fitr festival, urging the public to stay at home to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.
According to the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) which oversees the country's response to the pandemic, all businesses, hotels, parks, recreational spots and shopping malls will remain closed from May 8 to 16, covering the Eid al-Fitr holidays from May 10 to 15 in Pakistan.
Besides, there will also be a complete ban on inter-provincial and inter-city public transport during May 8 and May 16. Monitoring teams at federal, provincial, and district levels will make sure the implementation of the restrictions.
However, essential services including petrol stations, bakeries and pharmacies will be exempted from the restrictions, said the NCOC.
Pakistan has seen record deaths and the highest number of critical cases in recent days. The country reported 4,109 new COVID-19 cases over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 854,240, the NCOC said on Saturday.
A total of 120 people died during the last 24 hours, raising the death toll to 18,797, according to the NCOC.
Considering the grim situation in the country, the Pakistani government has announced extended Eid al-Fitr holidays and guidelines to curb the rising COVID-19 cases, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said.
"We have seen the destruction of coronavirus in our neighboring country. In Pakistan, we have recently been witnessing a sharp rise in the number of cases ... and by following standard operating procedures, we will be able to protect ourselves from the virus," Hussain said in his special message to public recently.
"In the past, we used to meet our families, relatives and friends to share the happiness of the festival, but on this Eid, we will be staying at home to save ourselves and families," he said, adding that "Stay Home, Stay Safe" will be the motto on the Eid al-Fitr holidays this time.
In order to control a mass mobility of travelers, Pakistan has suspended inbound pedestrian movement through land border crossings with neighboring Iran and Afghanistan from May 5 to 20. Normally, during Eid al-Fitr, massive return of migrant workers and overseas Pakistanis for celebrations are witnessed.
The country also slashed inbound international flights by 80 percent from May 5 to 20 amid high disease prevalence in various parts of the world and the current disease situation in Pakistan with corresponding extreme stress on the critical care system.
Meanwhile, the COVID-19 vaccination campaign has also been expedited recently. On Tuesday, Pakistan's single-day administered COVID-19 vaccine doses surpassed 200,000 for the first time, said Asad Umar, the NCOC chairman, adding that over 5 million people have been registered for vaccination so far.
Calling the government's extended measures timely and effective, health and economic experts in the country believe that the government must go an extra mile to save lives and the national economy from the adverse impact of the pandemic.
In a conversation with Xinhua, Talha Hashmi, a physician at the Benazir Bhutto Hospital, Rawalpindi, said that the next few weeks will be crucial in the battle against COVID-19 as the third wave has been gaining strength in the country, resulting in an increase in the number of confirmed cases and deaths.
"Although the government has been taking all-out necessary measures in its capacity, but without public support, all efforts to stop the spread of the disease would prove futile," Hashmi said, adding that strictly following the government-set health guidelines will be in public interest and for their own benefit.
Besides mounting overwhelming pressure on the country's healthcare system, the new upward trend in cases could also pose serious challenges to the national economy, Humayun Iqbal Shami, chairman of the Islamabad-based think tank Pakistan Economic Forum, said.
"If the situation gets out of control, the authorities would have no choice but to impose a complete lockdown in the country, which would directly affect ... lower strata of the society," the economist told Xinhua.
Shami said Pakistan had managed to get out of the economic crisis during the first and second waves of the coronavirus owing to timely and prudent policies adopted by the government, and the public has largely helped it by following COVID-19 related instructions.