Capital admin struggling to enforce lockdown in rural areas

Updated April 08, 2020

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Next two weeks to be crucial and coronavirus could spread rapidly if rural residents do not practice social distancing. — Dawn/File
Next two weeks to be crucial and coronavirus could spread rapidly if rural residents do not practice social distancing. — Dawn/File

ISLAMABAD: The capital administration is struggling to implement its lockdown and social distancing measures in rural parts of Islamabad to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

In addition, the number of quarantine centres in the capital has been increased to 13, and more than 50 houses have been sealed because of confirmed cases of Covid-19.

Theadministration believes that the next two weeks will be crucial, and if the rural residents do not practice social distancing, the coronavirus could spread sharply among them.

Local politicians, religious leaders and influential residents have been approached by the administration to convince them to take safety measures such as practicing social distancing and avoiding gatherings.

Islamabad Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Hamza Shafqaat told Dawn that the next two weeks are crucial, and any relaxation in precautionary measures against the virus would result in a massive increase in positive cases in the capital.

Next two weeks will be crucial and coronavirus could spread rapidly if rural residents do not practice social distancing, DC says; police asked to patrol rural areas

He said most urban residents have taken measures such as social distancing, but the response in rural areas is not encouraging. Mr Shafqaat said that despite warnings and requests, people in rural areas have been gathering and have not been keeping a distance from each other.

In light of the situation, the administration has sought assistance from local politicians including MNAs, as well as religious leaders and notable residents, to educate people on the issue and to emphasise the importance of social distancing in order to prevent an outbreak. He said everyone approached responded positively to the request.

The administration has also directed police to patrol rural areas to keep people in their homes and implement the lockdown, Mr Shafqaat said.

Law enforcement officials have been asked to remain vigilant at rural areas’ points of exit and entry, and to seek assistance from volunteers if needed to prevent unnecessary public movement.

He said that as of Tuesday evening, there were no new Covid-19 cases reported in Islamabad.

No one in the capital has died of the disease, as the woman who died at the Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences was a resident of Rawalpindi.

A total of 14 Covid-19 patients are in hospital, while 69 are isolated in their homes in rural and urban parts of the capital, he said. Between 50 and 55 have been sealed and declared quarantines after Covid-19 cases were reported there. A hostel in G-7 has also been sealed and declared a quarantine after one of its residents tested positive, he said.

Mr Shafqaat said the number of quarantine centres in the capital has also reached 13. The Pak-China Friendship Centre, Hajj Complex and OGDCL rest house in I-10 have been declared quarantine facilities, along with 10 hotelsthat the administration has taken over due to rising needs.

Mr Shafqaat said that more than 350 people are being housed at these centres, along with 22 positive cases who travelled to the capital from Turkey. People are being tested for the virus and reports in this regard are awaited, he said.

He added that there is a massive shortage of paramedical staff and doctors at quarantine centres, with just nine doctors and a few paramedics available.

He said that 150 passengers are scheduled to arrive in the capital from Baghdad, Iraq. Although the flight was delayed due to protests by pilots, arrangements to quarantine the passengers have been made.

Capital administration officials told Dawn that the need for quarantine centres is gradually increasing because all of the flights bringing Pakistanis back from abroad are scheduled to land in the capital.

Assistant commissioners, magistrates and revenue department officials have been asked to look for more hotels, motels, inns and rest houses that could be suitable for quarantine facilities, so passengers and suspected patients can be housed there.

They said such facilities are also being sought in Rawalpindi, and it has been decided to approach the railways ministry to ask for arrangements to bring coaches and bogies to the capital so quarantine centres can be set up in them.

An area where these coaches and bogies could be kept are not been selected, they said, but they could be placed at the Islamabad Dry Port or the Golra or Margalla railway stations.

Mr Shafqaat also announced on Twitter that the administration has also allowed private clinics can open and private hospitals can open outpatient departments as long as they follow standard operating procedures and take precautionary measures.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2020