Centre suggests extension of ‘smart lockdown’ in Karachi

Updated 02 Jul 2020

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Asad Umar warned any “mistake” or “relaxation” showed by the people and the administration could cause major damage. — AFP/File
Asad Umar warned any “mistake” or “relaxation” showed by the people and the administration could cause major damage. — AFP/File

KARACHI: As the Sindh government extended province-wide lockdown for another 15 days, it remains undecided so far about whether to extend or lift the “smart lockdown” enforced for a fortnight in Covid-19 hotspots in the city that ends at midnight today (the night between Thursday and Friday).

But federal authorities believe the provincial government should continue the same policy as unlike other parts of the country Sindh has not yet shown any stability and it needs to follow the same strategy to achieve desired results.

The suggestion came from the top when a key figure of the federal government, who is responsible for policymaking and executing the strategy in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, while referring to the recent data and numbers saw the Covid-19 situation in the country stabilising, but warned any “mistake” or “relaxation” showed by the people and the administration could cause major damage.

“We have seen positive trend and received positive feedback from three provinces — Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan — as well as Gilgit-Baltistan,” Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar told Dawn on Wednesday when asked about his suggestion and findings about the strategy of the smart lockdown.

Asad Umar says Covid-19 situation in Sindh ‘not so encouraging’

“But unfortunately, we have not seen such a trend in Sindh. Whether it’s number of patients or ratio of positive cases among the tests being held daily, the trend is not so encouraging,” he said.

“So I think and suggest that the smart lockdown should continue. But let me make it very clear. We at the centre only identify the areas and suggest the guidelines for better results. The decision regarding any policy and then its execution is totally up to the provincial governments,” Mr Umar said.

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

The move came after the local administration moved into action to place same restrictions in several areas of different districts of Sindh including Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana, Umerkot, Ghotki and Khairpur.

Though the lockdowns were lifted after completing two-week cycle in a number of areas of different Sindh districts, the fate of policy is not known yet.

Commissioner says decision expected today

When contacted, Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani told Dawn that any decision taken by the authorities would be made public by the evening today (Thursday).

Meanwhile, Mr Umar, who’s also the coordinator of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) which consists of senior civil and military officials, believed it’s time to show more responsibility in view of the recent change in behaviour of the society and successful efforts from the respective administrations.

“We have reached this stable condition due to a positive change in the people’s lives, which they have brought due to awareness, government campaign and learning about the precautions every day,” he said. “The efforts of the administration have also played a key role in implementing the guidelines. But let me request everyone that please make no mistake — the virus and threat is still here. We need to keep this going and should not get relaxed.”

He was referring to a new spike in the United States where with the reopening of the economy and businesses, the people returned to daily life with a thought that the virus threat was over. They showed carelessness and gave up all precautions, which brought another wave of positive cases, he said and added: “But we have to be cautious and never make this mistake here. We have to prove ourselves a responsible nation.”

Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2020