Sindh govt in state of indecision on tough SOPs to contain second Covid-19 wave

Published November 23, 2020
PEOPLE crowd the weekly birds market at Karimabad on Sunday. While hardly a few wear a face mask, social distancing prescribed under government’s SOPs is also widely ignored.—PPI
PEOPLE crowd the weekly birds market at Karimabad on Sunday. While hardly a few wear a face mask, social distancing prescribed under government’s SOPs is also widely ignored.—PPI

KARACHI: The Sindh government finds itself in a fix after its own task force on coronavirus has strongly recommended immediately taking all possible measures that had been taken during the first wave of the pandemic. However, after almost a week since the recommendations were made, the government is yet to move at the same pace with which it had acted hours after the first case was reported in February, it emerged on Sunday.

This time the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) government in the province apparently decided to go slow during the second wave of the pandemic and take every step after due consideration and feedback from “all stakeholders” and not just the health experts and other medical science professionals who are part of the task force.

“There was a meeting of the Sindh task force on coronavirus almost a week ago before the last meeting of NCC [National Coordination Committee],” said a source privy to the meeting.

“The members came up with strong recommendations and suggested all those measures taken during the first wave of the pandemic be repeated. Closure of educational institutions, different ways to restrict movement of people and minimising timing of all business activities were among the measures suggested during the meeting,” the source added.

Background interviews with a couple of health experts, who are also members of the Sindh task force on coronavirus, confirmed the agenda of the meeting and shared their suggestions and decisions at the end.

Although, they did not agree that there was a lack of willingness on the part of Sindh government to impose all those restrictions introduced during the first wave, but what they stated in response to a question posed by Dawn clearly showed that the authorities were yet to move the same way as it did in February.

“We don’t see any lack of willingness but yes I agree that implementation should be immediate and at a faster pace. This is a viral disease which has been declared pandemic,” said one of the members of the task force.

Another member also shared almost same thoughts.

In February, Sindh was the first province that had closed educational institutions as soon as first case of coronavirus emerged in the provincial metropolis. It gradually closed even the public service hospitals. However, this time it has not even made the same move in these two areas.

Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani first ruled out possibility of closure of educational institutions amid growing number of coronavirus cases and then said the province would wait for a decision to be taken at the national level.

Similarly, a controversy also surrounded the National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases (NICVD) as a senior doctor claimed that the hospital management had decided to ignore all guidelines during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic only because of “political” reasons.

The claim came from one of the most senior members of the NICVD medical faculty and administration, who was replaced last week after he had raised alarm over Covid-19 cases among the staff and health workers of the hospital and announced suspending all surgeries at the health facility and its satellite centres in Tando Mohammad Khan and Sukkur.

Even the doctors and their organisations that had been proactively engaged with the PPP government in building a momentum for the lockdown and convincing people for effectiveness of the curbs in controlling the spread of the virus, wonder this time about the “mood and strategy of the Sindh authorities”.

“We are still maintaining the same argument which we were pleading in March-April 2020. But I don’t know what’s wrong this time with the Sindh government; [but] I don’t want to get involved in any political debate,” said an office-bearer of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), requesting anonymity.

The same concern was raised by one of the senior members of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), which had not only supported the Sindh government but independently run campaigns in favour of the lockdown to control the spread of the disease.

“We are an organisation of professionals and we can only suggest ways and make people aware of the diseases. We are still doing this. It’s up to the government and people to follow our advice or not. You would seen us again in the media and on public forums very soon with the same plea,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2020

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