ISLAMABAD: National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) chief Asad Umar Tuesday announced that the government is reopening schools in five districts of Punjab and one district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, from September 16. The NCOC chairman announced that the NCOC had earlier placed strict restrictions on 24 districts throughout the country. Out of these, strict restrictions will only be imposed in six districts while the rest have been allowed relaxation. “These six districts [where strict restrictions will continue to remain] are Lahore, Faislabad, Multan, Gujrat, Sargodha and Bannu districts,” he said. The minister said that even in these districts, the government has decided to lift some restrictions. “Inter-city transport was earlier banned altogether from these districts. Now, buses can resume inter-city transport by accommodating 50% capacity of passengers,” he added. Similarly, he said schools in these six districts will resume on-campus classes from September 16, with 50% attendance in classes. Asad Umar said that outdoor dining in these districts was allowed to remain open till 10pm. “We have extended the time for outdoor dining till midnight. Indoor dining at restaurants, however, will remain banned,” he clarified. He said amusement parks, recreational spots and parks will remain open. Only vaccinated persons will be allowed to visit amusement parks, he clarified. The NCOC chief announced that the government was allowing outdoor activities but with a limit of 400 persons only. “However, indoor gatherings will continue to remain banned,” he said. The minister announced that COVID-19 restrictions imposed in districts other than these six will continue to remain in force till September 30. “We have witnessed that the fourth wave is decreasing in intensity as time passes,” said Asad Umar. “It is vital that we see an increase in the vaccination process. As you know, we had set huge targets in Pakistan’s large cities, to vaccinate fully 40% of Pakistan’s population of 15 years and above,” he said. Umar said the only way to get rid of these restrictions is to get vaccinated. However, he ruled out the government imposing any restrictions on businesses in the near future. “We won’t be placing restrictions on businesses. However, restrictions will be imposed on the individual who does not get himself vaccinated,” he added. “Education institutions in selected districts of Punjab, KP, and ICT are closed till 15th Sep,” the forum, which heads the country’s coronavirus battle, had said in a tweet on Monday. The NCOC stated that the decision to review the imposed restrictions would be communicated through official channels — implying that people should not pay heed to social media reports. Earlier this month, the NCOC had decided to extend special non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) till September 15 that were enforced till September 12 in 24 high disease-risk districts of Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), and Islamabad. The decision to continue the restrictions was taken amid significant pressure on critical care, hospital admissions, and oxygen requirements. As per the special NPIs, there was a complete ban on all sorts of indoor and outdoor gatherings, all types of indoor gyms, intercity public transport, and the educational sector till September 15, the Forum had decided. It added that NPIs for the remaining sectors would remain enforced as already communicated earlier.