• Restaurants, shopping malls, public parks, govt offices closed in province
• Out-patient departments of hospitals also shut for 15 days
• Inter-city bus services suspended from Friday
ISLAMABAD: As the countrywide tally of coronavirus (COVID-19) cases rose to 212 on Tuesday, the Sindh government made a drastic decision under which restaurants, shopping malls, food streets, public parks and government offices, except those for essential services, would remain closed from Wednesday (today) for 15 days all over the province.
Executive Director of the National Institute of Health (NIH) Maj Gen Dr Aamer Ikram told Dawn that so far 212 cases of COVID-19 had been reported from different parts of the country.
“We should not take the number of cases seriously because cases can be false positive and false negative. False positive cases are considered better as care of the patient starts but false negative [which means the patient is infected with the virus but it was not confirmed during test] cases can be disastrous as such patients can spread virus,” he said.
The decision to close public places in Sindh was made by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at a meeting of the Task Force on Coronavirus with a view to stop spread of coronavirus through social contacts, according to APP.
However, restaurants would be allowed to offer home delivery service and grocery, milk, fish, chicken, meat and vegetable shops/stalls would remain open as usual.
Another important decision taken by the chief minister was to close inter-city bus services from Friday. However, intra-city bus service would continue as usual.
Similarly out-patient departments of hospitals would remain closed for 15 days but hospitals would keep their emergencies open round the clock.
The chief minister was told that in Karachi total 501 tests were conducted, of them 463 turned out to be negative and 38 positive. Samples of 274 pilgrims coming from Iran and quarantined in Sukkur were also tested out of which 140 were declared negative and 134 positive. The tally of COVID-19 patients in Sindh has reached 172 while results of 29 samples are pending.
The chief minister has also decided to establish Coronavirus Relief Fund of Rs3 billion to which he would donate his one-month salary. The Sindh cabinet members, advisers and special assistants to the CM, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, IG Sindh Mushtaq Mahar, Chairman of Planning and Development Board Mohammad Waseem and Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar have also announced that they would donate their one-month salary to the fund.
Meanwhile in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, a woman, who had returned from UK to Mansehra a week ago, was tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.
So far, KP has confirmed 16 cases, including 15 pilgrims coming from Iran and the latest case involving a person coming from UK as both of these countries are struggling to tackle the violent circulation of coronavirus.
The woman had been admitted to hospital while those people who had remained in contact with her were being followed, officials said.
“We have designated Gomal University in Dera Ismail Khan as quarantine as more pilgrims belonging to KP would reach the province on Wednesday,” officials said.
On Monday, 15 of the 19 pilgrims who had arrived in D.I. Khan were tested positive for the virus at the Khyber Medical University, Peshawar.
“We are also expecting another positive case. The suspected patient arrived from UK to Mansehra on March 10. Since he has symptoms of the disease he has been quarantined,” the officials said.
NIH ED Dr Ikram advised the people to avoid social gatherings and try to stay at their houses.
“People should be careful about their health and hygiene. Instead of going for the costly sanitizers people should wash their hands with soap. They should care about their diet and have ample amount of vitamins as it improves immune system,” he said.
Ashfaq Yusufzai from Peshawar also contributed to this story.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2020