The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Saturday directed the provinces to devise guidelines for the tourism sector to avoid a second coronavirus wave.
During a meeting chaired by NCOC head Federal Planning and Development Minister Asad Umar, the forum observed that standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of Covid-19 were being flouted at almost all tourist destinations. It warned that coronavirus cases could resurge if the tourism sector was not managed properly.
The federal government has allowed the reopening of restaurants, hotels, cinemas, beauty parlours, gyms and other businesses in the hospitality and recreational sectors — almost five months after they were closed to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic — in the wake of the decline in Covid-19 cases and fatalities.
Restrictions on the tourism sector, which includes hotels, have been lifted on Saturday. Restaurants, cinemas and other businesses as well as shrines and expo centres will reopen from Monday.
The NCOC directed the authorities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir to ensure that the SOPs were followed, according to a statement issued after the meeting.
The SOPs include using facemasks and density control, meaning a limited number of tourists can be allowed at a place at a time.
Other provinces were also directed to take measures to control the flow of tourists to various destinations.
For the next three weeks, special efforts to ramp up testing and contact tracing of tourists through establishing of special sentinel sites at tourist spots and airports will be ensured
The SOPs on tourism have already been issued, but the health ministry will formulate and issue special guidelines and action plan for tourist management.
The decision to reopen the hospitality and recreational sectors was made during a meeting of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Covid-19 chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan and attended by representatives from all the provinces.
These sectors were on the government’s negative list – meaning they posed a greater risk of spreading the infection.
Wedding halls and educational institutions will be allowed to operate from September 15.
The federal education minister will consult with provincial ministers for a final review of the situation on September 7 to allow educational institutions to reopen.
Restrictions in place while travelling in trains and airlines will be lifted on October 1.
Similarly, public transport will be allowed to operate from Monday but passengers will not be allowed to travel while standing in buses.
Businesses have also been permitted to revert to their pre-coronavirus pandemic timings.
On Friday, the NCOC discussed the steps being taken to open various sectors and the preparedness ahead of the Independence Day celebrations and Muharram.
The SOPs for Muharram had been prepared under which only registered processions would be allowed. Their organisers have been asked to avoid narrow streets. Speakers will have to wear masks and maintain a distance of at least six feet from the first row of the participants.
For those attending Independence Day events, the use of sanitisers at entry points and wearing of masks will be mandatory.