Federal for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar has said that the government has decided to close indoor restaurants across Pakistan to prevent spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Briefing the media persons about decisions taken by the National Coordination Committee, which met in the federal capital with Prime Minister Imran Khan in the chair, Asad Umar said, “Covid-19 cases are rapidly increasing and the government has decided to ban all indoor restaurants across the country.” He said that this ban will not be valid for food stalls operating in open spaces. He said the NCC also validated decisions taken by the National Command and Operation Centre regarding closure of schools. “Decision to close schools was not an easy one but lives of children are more important,” said Asad Umar and added that the government is working on a mechanism for education to move it uninterrupted. The planning minister also said that schools would reopen after winter vacations on January 11 by monitoring the Covid-19 situation. “Pakistan can witness a similar Covid situation like June if citizens do not take precautions,” warned the federal minister. He said that provincial governments have been asked to consult religious scholars, requesting them to appeal to the faithful to observe standard operating procedures (SOPs) in mosques so that prayer and protection of health can go side by side. The minister said in view of increasing intensity and severity of the second wave of the pandemic, the government also imposed a ban on holding public gatherings. He appealed to the political leadership of the country to avoid organising public rallies to prevent spread of the contagion. He said that Speaker National Assembly Asad Qaisar has convened a meeting of the parliamentary committee on Covid-19 on Wednesday (today) and it is hoped that leadership of all the political parties will attend the sitting to evolve a common strategy to contain spread of the virus by desisting from holding mass rallies. The minister urged the people to realise the severity of the second wave of the pandemic as at present around 1,750 people are on oxygen and in a critical condition. He appealed to the people to strictly observe SOPs, including wearing masks, avoiding hand shaking, frequent hand washing, and social distancing. Speaking on the occasion, Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on National Health Dr Faisal Sultan said that 2,900 new cases have been reported during the last 24 hours, 212 Covid-19 affected patients have been admitted to hospitals, while mortality rate has increased to 7.2 percent. He said that Pakistan has successfully overcome the first wave of the pandemic due to observance of a disciplined response to the virus by strictly following the SOPs.