Lockdown imposed in Sindh for next 15 days; movement restricted to need-only basis

Updated March 22, 2020

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Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announces a lockdown in Sindh in a video message on Sunday. — DawnNewsTV
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announces a lockdown in Sindh in a video message on Sunday. — DawnNewsTV

Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Sunday announced that a lockdown will be imposed throughout the province starting midnight for the next 15 days in order to control the spread of coronavirus.

Sindh has the largest number of coronavirus cases in the country with 292 confirmed. Pakistan's tally is currently 645 with four deaths.

Following, the chief minister's announced Sindh government's home department has shared a notice with details of the lockdown.

"There shall be a complete ban on movement of people including Intercity or Interprovincial travel or gatherings of any kind for social, religious, or any other purpose at any place, public or private, including all offices, public or private situated within the territorial limits of province of Sindh," the notification read.

Another late-night notification said that Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Ali Shal­wani has cancelled the exemption given for home delivery/takeaway of food items from restaurants.

"The kitchens of all restaurants/fast food chains shall remain closed," said the notification.

There are, however, certain personnel exempted from the lockdown including those related to:

  • Health services
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Those in need of medical care with an attendant where necessary
  • Person going to buy groceries and medicines
  • Necessary/unavoidable religious rites
  • Any exemption deemed necessary by the government

Those who are exempted will be allowed to:

  • Travel in single numbers
  • One person per family may go out to buy essential medicine, groceries etc with a driver only in the case of the elderly or handicapped
  • Person on vehicles carrying essential food items
  • Persons exempted to carry CNIC; should maintain social distance and take safety precautions

Essential services exempt from the ban on movement are:

  • health and related services
  • food and related industry/ manufacturers
  • grocery stores, general and convenience stores
  • fish, meat, vegetable/fruit vendors and dairy shops
  • essential municipal services
  • electricity and SSGC
  • water supply
  • port operations, PNSC and custom services
  • PTA/PTCL/NTC service staff
  • cellular companies service staff for repair maintenance of towers/cables
  • banks (with limited staff for services)
  • petrol pumps
  • welfare organisations
  • media persons authorised by information department, newspaper hawkers
  • any other class deemed essential

As per the notification, anyone who doesn't follow the orders will be punishable under Section 188 of the Pakistan Penal Code.

Following Shah's message, police officers in different areas of Karachi started patrolling the streets to announce the government's decision and to urge citizens to stay at home starting from tomorrow.

In a video message, the provincial chief minister said that he met with politicians from various political parties during which they discussed the coronavirus and agreed upon certain steps that needed to be taken.

Shah said that following discussions with all stakeholders, it was decided that the only way to control the virus was to curtail its spread.

"There is only one way to curtail its spread, as this virus transfers from one person to another very fast, so we need to minimise people's interaction," he said.

The chief minister said that the spread of the virus should be curtailed and at the same time, health facilities should be improved.

"We should not arrive at a situation where we have more patients and our health facilities are not sufficient," he cautioned.

"The purpose of the lockdown is that all offices and places for gatherings [...] will be closed."

He said that those who are not required to do step out in public, will not be allowed to do so.

"If someone wants to step out they should have a valid reason."

The provincial chief minister said that they will try to make sure food is supplied in shops, adding that they were trying to ensure that if someone wanted to step out to buy groceries, they would able to do so once in a two-day period.

Shah said that the way to monitor this was that anyone who steps out will carry their computerised national identity card (CNIC) card with them.

"Once that CNIC is entered into the law enforcement system, we have the IT facilities to find out in the database if they are going out more than twice."

The chief minister said that if someone has an emergency, such as taking a patient to a hospital, they will be allowed to do so. He added that two people could go together along with a driver.

"Our recommendation is that more than two people don't sit in a car," he said.

The chief minister said that ATMs will remain open. He said that banks should operate with only their essential staff.

Additionally, Shah said he spoke to K-Electric, Sui Southern Gas Company, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) , Sukkur Electric Power Company (Sepco) and Karachi Water and Sewerage Board that there should be no loadshedding.

Those whose electricity bills below Rs4,000 will not be required to pay their bill this month, it will be added to their bills over the subsequent months. For Sui Southern Gas Company, the threshold was set at Rs2,000.

The chief minister appealed to landlords to suspend rent for one month.

He said that a new Facebook and Twitter page will be set up which will share all the details about who will be allowed to step out, who won't be and who will be allowed to do so in certain situations.

"These notifications will be updated on a daily basis as we find out problems," he said. Additionally, a team has been formed headed by the chief secretary that will be available 24 hours.

Shah urged the people of Sindh to support the government's decision.

Country will not be put under lockdown: PM Imran

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Imran Khan said he would not put the country under lockdown and urged citizens to be disciplined and self-quarantine themselves.

Addressing the nation through a televised message, the prime minister explained that enforcing a lockdown would mean a curfew and would harm the population of the country living below the poverty line.

"25 per cent of the population of our country lives under the poverty line. Putting the country under lockdown would mean that my daily-wage workers, street vendors, small shop-owners [...] would be locked inside their homes. How would they earn then?"

He added that if the situation in Pakistan was similar to that in Italy or France, he would have imposed a lockdown immediately.

He urged citizens to take themselves towards a lockdown and to self-quarantine.

Warning the nation that the coronavirus would spread fast if they were not careful, he urged people to be cautious for the sake of the elderly.

Asking citizens to use their "wisdom and intelligence", he urged them to be self-disciplined and stay at home.

"If you aren't careful, our entire nation will suffer. If you do this, we will get out of this difficult time like China has done."

The premier added that he and his team were constantly focused on bringing the nation out of the coronavirus pandemic and said that he would inform the country about steps the government would take for the industry.

He also advised citizens to not hoard supplies, adding that the country had "no shortage of food". He asked them to refrain from spreading panic, saying that "panic is a bigger threat than coronavirus".