A LAW enforcer stops a rickshaw to admonish its driver and passengers for overloading on Monday.
—White Star
A LAW enforcer stops a rickshaw to admonish its driver and passengers for overloading on Monday. —White Star

KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Monday urged the federal government to stop collection of debt servicing from the resources of the provincial government until situation of coronavirus pandemic receded.

The finance department on the instructions of the chief minister wrote a letter to the federal finance secretary to stop debt service payment in view of shortfall during coronavirus.

The federal government collects around Rs3 billion as debt service charges from the resources of the Sindh government on a monthly basis.

The Sindh government said that there was a serious anticipated shortfall in revenues in view of Covid-19 pandemic in near future and it would be in the fitness of things that such collection may not be made until situation returned to normal and danger of pandemic receded.

Meanwhile, the Sindh health department informed the chief minister at the 26th meeting of the task force on coronavirus that it had so far conducted 3,450 tests and 3,020 of them were declared as negative while 394 were diagnosed as positive.

Murad orders doubling of the Covid-19 testing capacity; directs early disbursement of pensions

At present 1,099 pilgrims were under treatment/care at Sukkur, 83 at Larkana and 98 at Malir.

Testing capacity

The chief minister was informed that the overall current capacity of coronavirus samples tests in 10 hospitals working across the province was 1,200 per day.

The chief minister said that he had provided necessary resources and the capacity must be increased to 3,400 tests per day.

It may be noted last week the capacity was 180 tests per day.

The daily report submitted by 29 government hospitals said that 1,874 cases of pneumonia were dealt by them and 18 were tested while the private hospitals reported 702 cases and 19 of them were found fit for test.

The chief minister was told that six international flights brought 987 passengers and all of them were screened. One passenger was found suspect and his sample was sent for test. There were 14 local flights and three of them were cancelled. The local flights brought 918 passengers and two of them were suspected coronavirus patients, therefore their samples were sent for test.

A control room established at the services and general administration department received 153 complaints, of them 104 were about closure of shops, two of violation of lockdown, one of failure of electricity and such others.

The chief minister was told that different organisations had requested the control room for exemption of lockdown for their necessary staff members. The chief minister directed the chief secretary to decide the matters on his own.

He also directed the provincial police chief to further tighten the lockdown.

Early disbursement of pension ordered

The chief minister directed the finance department to start giving pension to retired employees of the provincial government from March 25.

“The elderly people have weak immune system, therefore they should not be allowed to gather at bank at a time,” he said and issued directive that their pension be paid right from March 25 onward.

He also urged the pensioners to start drawing their pensions from March 25 and take proper care.

Meanwhile, the finance secretary issued a letter to the accountant general Sindh and district account officers/treasury officers for early payment of pensions.

The chief minister also decided to take necessary measures to control the expenditures of the provincial government in view of the coronavirus outbreak.

He decided that other than regular salary and pension, all the payments such as commutation, gratuity, encashment of leaves would stand withheld.

The finance secretary informed the AG-Sindh, district account officers and treasury officers about the government decision.

The meeting was attended by provincial ministers, city mayor, chief secretary, provincial police chief, additional chief secretary-home, additional inspector general of police, representatives of WHO, Aga Khan Hospital, Indus Hospital, V Corps, Rangers, Civil Aviation Authority, Federal Investigation Agency and others.

Citizen donates Rs1m

Honouring the appeal of the chief minister, an elderly person has donated Rs1 million in the Sindh Government Coronavirus Fund on Monday evening.

The elderly person, on the condition of anonymity, directly contacted the chief minister and submitted him a cheque for Rs1m as donation for coronavirus patients along with a handwritten letter.

The letter reads: “Dear C.M, I am a retired person of 88 years. In respect to your appeal, I submit herewith a cheque of a humble amount in face of unheard and dreadful epidemic- kind regards.”

Rs11.2m for Expo Centre hospital

The chief minister released Rs11.2m for the field hospital at Expo Centre.

The funds were released to the army for running the facility.

The chief minister said that the funds would be spent on the patients and purchase of required medical-related items.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2020