Police have sealed a road at Faizabad to prevent people from entering Islamabad. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Police have sealed a road at Faizabad to prevent people from entering Islamabad. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: Restrictions on entry into the capital have been enhanced to limit the movement of non-residents owing to the coronavirus outbreak.

With the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rising to 64 on Thursday after six more people tested positive, the duration of the partial lockdown in the capital has also been increased by 10 to 14 days.

Capital administration and police officials said that all points of entry into Islamabad were partially sealed on Thursday after people were found to be moving around without a genuine reason. Security forces and police have been stationed at Faizabad, Islamabad Chowk, Bhara Kahu and Rawat to prevent intercity public movement.

There are four main points of entry in the Industrial Area Zone, two in the Rural Zone and one each in the City and Sadar zones, all of which have been partially sealed.

Security personnel posted at various points to limit movement of non-residents; confirmed Covid-19 cases rise to 64 in capital

People exempt from the restrictions include healthcare staff, security and law enforcement, government officials, rescue workers and journalists. People facing emergency situations, including those requiring medical attention, are also permitted movement.

Arrangements have been made for people to have grocery and green grocery items delivered to their doors, keeping in view their safety due to the outbreak, the officials said.

There is no need for people to leave their homes except in the case of an emergency.

Intercity movement will be stopped by partially sealing all points of entry, they said.

They added that the majority of Islamabad residents appear to be taking the issue casually despite restrictions on social gatherings and unnecessary movement, and a number of people have been seen visiting parks and marketplaces with their families. They said doing so risks people’s lives and the lives of their families.

Efforts are ongoing to mount surveillance in parks and markets to restrict movement, but there is a shortage of manpower, they said, adding that it is being considered whether to seek assistance from volunteers in this regard.

Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat told Dawn that six more cases of Covid-19 were reported on Thursday, all from Bhara Kahu.

The patients’ relatives are also being tested. They have been asked to self-isolate while their reports are awaited, he said, while their immediate contacts are being traced for screening and testing as well.

Mr Shafqaat said the situation in Bhara Kahu is alarming, and health departments are screening and testing people in the area.

He said that so far no new cases have been reported from Shahzad Town, where eight Covid-19 were previously reported. Health departments are still screening and testing residents, and reports regarding locals are being received regularly.

Mr Shafqaat said that restrictions are being intensified at all the entry points of the capital because significant public movement has been observed.

He added that the partial lockdown in Islamabad may be extended for 10 to 14 days under decisions made by the government, and a notification in this regard will be issued on April 5 or 6.

He said that people are advised to stay at home and to offer their prayers there, as people may infect one another at social gatherings and during visits to parks or markets.

Administration and police officials told Dawn that they have visited their local mosques and imambargahs and asked them to follow the government’s directives regarding daily and Friday prayer congregations.

Khateebs and imams have been asked to make announcements at noon on Friday telling people to offer their Zuhr prayers at home and not to visit the mosque or Imambargahs for Friday prayers.

Administration officials also met with religious leaders, including those from the Jamiat Ulemia-i-Islam and Ahle Tahsi school of thought and urged them to follow the directives.

They said that the 10pc of khateebs and imams who have initially disagreed with the directives were successfully persuaded to follow them.

They hoped that the directives would be followed in all of the capital’s more than 900 mosques and 300 imambargahs, adding that this time strict action would be taken against violators.

The police have arrested 52 more people for violating bans on various activities imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, including riding pillion and holding social gatherings.

A written advisory has been distributed among residents by local police stations that states that since prayer congregations may spread Covid-19, only the mosque management, khateeb and muezzin can pray inside a mosque, while maintaining a distance of six feet, wearing masks and gloves and using hand sanitiser.

Mosque managements have been asked to close the doors of their places of worship when it is time for Friday prayers, to make announcements for mosques urging people to pray at home and to hang instructions to their effect at their gates.

In case of someone’s death, a minimal number of people should be informed and should gather for funeral prayers.

Those who attend funeral prayers should maintain a distance of six feet from each other.

It adds that section 144 has been imposed and people are advised to restrict movement and stay home; if they need to leave their homes, they should maintain a six feet distance, avoid gatherings, wear gloves and mask and carry CNICs.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2020