Islamabad, Jul 9 (PTI) There are 'clear early signs' of a fourth COVID-19 wave starting in Pakistan due to poor compliance with the standard operating procedures and the spread of the Delta variant, Minister for Planning Asad Umar said on Friday.
Umar, who is also the head of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) to combat COVID-19, said field reports were showing a complete disregard for the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and warned that the government would be forced to shut down wedding halls, indoor restaurants and gyms if they ignored the rules.
'Two weeks ago, I tweeted that our artificial intelligence models are showing the possible emergence of a fourth wave. Now there are clear early signs of a fourth wave starting,' he said in a tweet.
He cited poor SOP compliance by the people and the spread of COVID-19 variants, including the Delta variant, first identified in India, as reasons for the fourth wave in Pakistan.
The NCOC, the nerve centre of Pakistan's coronavirus response, has previously confirmed the presence of different variants of coronavirus in Pakistan, including the Delta variant, Beta variant that was first detected in South Africa, and the Alpha variant that was discovered in the United Kingdom.
Pakistan on Friday announced to ban air travel for unvaccinated people from next month and vaccination for workers of various sectors and students.
The NCOC said in a statement that no one will be allowed to travel without a vaccination certificate after August 1.
“Visitors to tourist spots aged 30 and above will not be allowed without a vaccination certificate,” it said, adding that hotel bookings without vaccination certificates will be prohibited.
The NCOC also warned of a ban on tourist spots if cases continue to rise.
The forum also made it mandatory to get vaccinated by July 31 for all private and corporate sector employees, including those affiliated with agriculture, media sectors, law, various factories and even street vendors.
Those associated with the transport and hotel industry, gymnasiums, employees of mosques, including imams, workers at workshops and wedding halls will also be vaccinated by the end of this month.
The NCOC asked students of 18 years and above to get vaccinated by August 31.
Meanwhile, Pakistan recorded 1,737 new COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours which was the highest since 1,923 cases recorded on June 4.
Pakistan recorded 663 cases on June 21 which marked the end of the third wave that hit the country in March and peaked on April 17 with 6,127 new cases.
Last year Pakistan battled two waves of the pandemic.
Umar’s tweet came a day after Prime Minister Imran Khan in a video message issued a similar warning about the looming threat of a new wave and urged people to follow the guidelines.
Meanwhile, the national tally of confirmed cases reached 969,476 while the death toll touched 22,520, according to the Ministry of National Health Services. PTI SH RUP AKJ CPS