KARACHI: Authorities monitoring the “smart lockdown” in different areas of the city have come up with an innovative idea to check the movement of people in the neighbourhoods identified as “hotspots of coronavirus” through a newly-designed system of the Sindh police, which have spotted hundreds of individuals defying the defined rules in certain localities, it emerged on Sunday.

Officials and residents of such areas said that the situation led to the reinforcement of law-enforcers and officials of the local administration to make stricter arrangements.

The officials said the local administration moved after serious criticism emerged from different quarters against the effectiveness of the “smart lockdown” in different parts of the city, which was imposed on June 19 and led to the closure of business centres to a large extent in the identified areas. However, district officials and personnel of the law enforcement agencies failed to stop people’s movement in the neighbourhoods identified as Covid-19 hotspots.

Commissioner Shallwani says number of coronavirus cases in Covid-19 hotspots has declined

To check the people’s movement, the Sindh police came up for the help of the city administration with its recently-designed “citizens monitoring application”, which allowed them to monitor, check and keep real time record of movement in the areas under “smart lockdown” and make immediate move for those neighbourhoods where the number of violations and people’s remained unchecked due to lack of resources.

Talking to Dawn, Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani confirmed the move and sounded confident that the initiative taken by the local administration in assistance with police would bear fruit.

‘Number of cases on decline’

“I am not exactly aware of the data but the feedback from all relevant institutions including health department shows that the lockdown is effective and the number of coronavirus cases in these localities has declined,” he said.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely and enjoying cooperation from the Sindh police and Rangers. The Sindh police’s assistance to check movement of the people is quite effective and similarly contribution of other institutions matters a lot to make it a success,” he added.

The Sindh government had on June 18 imposed the smart lockdown in several parts of Karachi following several such measures in many other districts of the province after the federal government identified 20 potential Covid-19 hotspots where restrictive measures were needed to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Under the orders, more than 40 neighbourhoods in over a dozen union committees of the city’s six districts were identified for the smart lockdown.

The job remained challenging for the administration for first couple of days with unchecked and frequent movement of people raising questions over the performance of the district administration and effectiveness of the smart lockdown.

However, the recent capacity building by the Sindh police mainly to counter crime and maintain law and order emerges as an effective solution to make the lockdown effective.

‘Random checks’

“The citizens monitoring application is developed by the Sindh police,” said a senior official of the law enforcement agency. “When the lockdown was announced back in March 2020, the Sindh police on its own used it and found it effective to monitor, check and keep real time record of people’s movement in different areas. The police deployed at checkpoints or temporary pickets or with patrolling teams are equipped with the application and the necessary gadgets or devices.”

The police personnel, the official said, randomly checked people, put their record including CNIC number, cell phone number in the application and asked them reason as to why they were out of their homes. The entries build the strong data in several certain localities and within couple of days hundreds of people were identified who were defying the lockdown without any valid reasons, said the official.

“This also helped the district administration to increase the number of their officials or strengthen the deployment of law enforcement personnel in those areas where the violations were frequently reported. Through round-the-clock monitoring, checks and real time access to data and record, only after a few days the lockdown became much effective in those areas,” added the official.

Published in Dawn, June 29th, 2020