ISLAMABAD - The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) on Saturday directed the provinces to devise guidelines for managing tourism in the country as widespread violations of SOPs have been observed at all tourist destinations. 

The NCOC warned that health guidelines and standard operating procedures (SOPs) should also be ensured in the tourism sector to contain the resurgence of Covid-19 outbreak. 

The warning of the centre came following people thronged the tourist spots, especially to hilly and northern areas of the country, after the government opened the tourism sector from August 8 (Saturday) after a break of five months. 

A meeting at the NCOC chaired by Federal Minister for Planning, and Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar discussed the opening up of tourism sector while implementing proper SOPs and safety guidelines to contain the deadly disease. 

The forum highlighted that violations of SOPs have been observed at almost all tourist destinations and emphasized that, if tourism was not managed well, it might cause another outbreak of pandemic and surge in new cases of coronavirus. 

The meeting requested the administrations of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan and Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK) to make allout efforts to enforce SOPs for visiting tourists including use of facemask and maintaining social distancing. 

The meeting observed that the policy of “No Mask No Tourism” should be observed and density at tourist sites should be controlled.

The meeting said that other provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan must take measures to control the flow of tourists to the tourist destinations. For next three weeks, special efforts should be ensured to ramp up testing and contact tracing of tourists through establishing of special sentinel sites at tourist spots and airports.

The NCOC observed that detailed SOPs for tourism industry have already been issued, however, the Ministry of Health will formulate and issue special guidelines and action plan for tourist management.

Earlier this week, the National Coordination Committee (NCC) under the chair of Prime Minister Imran Khan had decided to lift restrictions countrywide after sharp decline in new coronavirus cases. It had decided to open up tourism sector from August 8 and restaurants and transport sector from August 10 (tomorrow). Moreover, cafes, public parks, amusement parks, theatres, cinemas, expo centres, and beauty parlours were also allowed to open from tomorrow (Monday).

In March, the government had closed the tourism sector after the outbreak of Covid-19 in the country leaving hundreds of thousands of workers of the industry unemployed and causing huge losses to the national economy.