KARACHI: As the number of coronavirus cases in the province swelled to 150, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Monday apprehended further increase in the number of such patients across the country in future.
Of the 150 reported cases in Sindh, according to a spokesperson for the Sindh health department, 119 arrived in Sukkur from Taftan, 30 are from Karachi while one is from Hyderabad.
“I am not worried about the cases of Sukkur because the pilgrims are living in a proper isolation but the dangerous thing is cropping up of cases in Karachi where more than eight cases ... have emerged,” said the CM while addressing a press conference here at the CM House.
He also advised the people to take precautionary measures and avoid social gatherings and meetings. “You have to adopt volunteer isolation — this is the only solution to contain coronavirus.”
Makes it clear his govt will not shut grocery, meat, poultry shops and superstores
He said that the health department had conducted so far 392 tests and 27 of them were declared as positive.
Giving details of the cases, the chief minister said that nine cases had travel history of Syria, three of Dubai and four of Iran, one of Qatar and two had the travel history of Saudi Arabia, while there were eight cases of local transmission.
He said that the two patients from Saudi Arabia had 17 contacts and three of them were tested positive. “Apart from local cases, there were 13 severe pneumonia cases which have been sent for lab test,” he added.
The chief minister said that the eight contact cases were dangerous urging people to understand the severity of the situation.
The chief minister said that some 37 flights were scheduled on Sunday and eight of them were cancelled. He said that 5,112 passengers arrived and were screened, of them nine had been kept in quarantine as suspects and their samples were sent for test.
Decision to shut eateries, tea stalls soon
Reacting to a report presented by Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani, the CM said that it was not acceptable that people were still thronging restaurants, hotels and tea stalls.
“It is not acceptable and I request the people to adopt self-isolation, otherwise I would have no option but to close restaurants, hotels, chaikhanas (tea stalls) and such other facilities,” he warned.
Mr Shah told the police and the administration to work out a plan to control crowds, or give notice to restaurants and hotels to close their facilities by 9pm.
“I’ll take a final decision in this regard very soon,” he said.
The chief minister urged the people of Karachi, Hyderabad and other thickly populated cities and towns of the province to keep themselves away from each other and keep washing hands a number of times.
“This is purely an issue of precautions but I am sorry to say people are still holding gatherings [and] crowding shopping centres,” he said.
Grocery, meat shops, superstores will not be closed
Replying to a question about a lockdown, the chief minister said in all the conditions, grocery shops, superstores, vegetable shops, chicken and mutton shops would not be closed.
“I am surprised to learn that people have started stocking groceries under rumour of a lockdown,” he said, adding that they did not need to stock groceries. “We will not allow hoarding nor will [we] close shops,” he said clearly.
To a question, Mr Shah said that there were testing facilities at the Aga Khan, Ojha and Indus hospitals.
“We are testing free of cost only those who have travel history and contacts of the travellers,” he said and added those who wanted to get themselves tested could do so at their own expense.
Meanwhile, the CM directed the commissioner of Sukkur to make effective arrangements for the patients.
He was chairing the 19th meeting of the task force on coronavirus.
The commissioner said that a separate block was established for the newly diagnosed patients and they all were cooperating with the medical team.
The chief minister was told that some of the doctors were reluctant to go into the isolation centre but when a team of doctors the chief minister dispatched to Sukkur met them and briefed them about the precautions they voluntarily started working.
The chief minister also sent religious leaders from Karachi to visit pilgrims who were agitating at the isolation centre.
The chief minister also directed the commissioner to make arrangements for the other batch of over 600 pilgrims coming from Taftan on Tuesday (today).
The chief minister directed the Karachi commissioner and inspector general of police to start raids on the stores, shops and warehouses where sanitizers, hand wash and tissue papers were being hoarded and being sold at exorbitant prices.
He also participated in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan from the CM House and briefed him about the measures his government had taken to contain coronavirus.
He also held a meeting with the members belonging to different political parties in the Sindh Assembly and took them into confidence about the steps being taken to contain the virus.
Those who attended the meeting included a four-member delegation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan led by Khwaja Izharul Hasan; three-member delegation of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf led by Dr Saeed Afridi, two members of the Grand Democratic Alliance and one each of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan and Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal.
The chief minister briefed the MPAs about the coronavirus cases, isolation wards established across the province, number of patients diagnosed so far and people kept in quarantine.
Published in Dawn, March 17th, 2020