Stricter Covid-19 restrictions might be enforced if SOPs flouted, warns Umar

Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar on Thursday warned that stricter Covid-19 restrictions on activities might be enforced if the compliance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) did not improve.

"Sharp spike in covid positivity," the minister said in a tweet."Hospital daily admissions & people in critical care rising fast. If sop compliance does not improve, we will be forced to place stronger restrictions on activities."

He further urged the masses to remain careful as the new [UK] strain was more contagious and deadlier as compared to the Wuhan variant of the Covid-19 virus.

Sharp spike in covid positivity. Hospital daily admissions & people in critical care rising fast. If sop compliance does not improve, we will be forced to place stronger restrictions on activities. Please be very very careful. The new strain spreads faster and is more deadly.
— Asad Umar (@Asad_Umar) March 18, 2021

Pakistan recorded 3,495 new coronavirus cases, the highest of the year, in the last 24 hours, taking the country's Covid-19 tally to 607,453.

According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the country's death toll climbed to 13,717 after 61 people succumbed to the deadly disease during the last 24 hours. Most deaths occurred in Punjab followed by K-P.

Meanwhile, 1,634 patients recovered from the deadly disease during the day, taking the total number of recoveries to 577,501.

According to NCOC, the total number of active Covid-19 cases across the country were reported to be 24,592.

Out of the 3,495 total new Covid-19 cases, Punjab reported 1,824 cases, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa reported 624, Islamabad reported 538, Sindh reported 384 cases, Azad Jammu and Kashmir reported 103 cases and Balochistan reported 22 cases.

According to NCOC, out of 61 total deaths reported in the last 24 hours, 43 were reported in Punjab, nine in K-P, two in Islamabad, one in Sindh, six in AJK whereas no deaths were reported in Balochistan.

A day earlier it was reported that the Commerce Division was working on a plan to end duty exemptions on import of Covid-19 related machinery and material, as the country received another batch of 500,000 vaccine doses gifted by the Chinese government.

Read more: Govt may end zero duty on Covid equipment imports

A senior commerce ministry official told The Express Tribune that the cabinet had tasked the ministry to work on removing exemptions on import of Covid-related material in bid to protect the local industry.

At present, the local industry is manufacturing Covid-related equipment and material and paying 17% general sales tax. The zero-duty regime for the import of Covid-related machinery had made the local products uncompetitive.

The government had exempted 61 diagnostic support and personal protective equipment (PPEs) from all duties and taxes in March last year. However, the local industry started manufacturing the equipment, the cabinet meeting held last week was informed.

Because of the local production, a cabinet minister called for contribution in kind, instead of cash, to the Covid related funds. The ministers also pointed out that the zero duty on import of Covid-19 related equipment had made the local products uncompetitive.

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)