KARACHI: Keeping in view the fresh spike in coronavirus cases, the Sindh government on Monday banned interprovincial transport, closed all educational institutions and cut staff at government offices by 80 per cent.

“We have also decided to seek the services of armed forces to assist the district administration and police in implementing coronavirus-related standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the province,” said Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.

Speaking at a press conference at the auditorium of the Sindh Assembly just after presiding over a meeting of the provincial task force on coronavirus, he said the situation was comparatively better in Sindh but the detection ratio of the new cases had shown a dangerous surge during the last 60 days.

Industries to work as usual; markets closure time unchanged; army called in to enforce SOPs

Accompanied by relevant provincial ministers and other officials, he said the number of daily cases on Feb 24 was 348 on April 25 the same number reached 952.

“This shows that the situation is aggravating,” he said.

The CM said that there were 664 “ICU beds with ventilators” in the province; of them only 47 were currently occupied.

He added that there were 1,872 high-dependence unit (HDU) beds with oxygen facilities in the province; of them 296 were occupied.

“It still means we have enough facilities to deal with the patients but we have decided to upgrade and multiply our facilities,” he said.

Sindh has three functional oxygen plants

Mr Shah said that the oxygen was available in enough quantities in the province.

“We have no issue with [oxygen] shortage — we have three oxygen plants installed in government facilities, one at Trauma Centre Karachi and other two at Dow University Ojha Campus and Gambat Institute of Health Sciences, Khairpur,” he added.

The chief minister said that the provincial government had decided to purchase two more plants, one from Italy and another one from China.

“I am assessing ways and means to airlift one of the oxygen plants at the earliest,” he added.

Mr Shah said that still the province of Sindh was in a comfortable position, but the situation could worsen, therefore, some important decisions were taken in the meeting of the task force.

Giving details of the decisions, he said all the schools, colleges and universities had been closed with immediate effect.

“All the provincial government offices have been directed to slash their staff by 80 per cent and the staff members would work from their homes,” he said.

He added the offices of essential services would function as usual and the new office timings would be from 9am to 2pm.

Mr Shah said that all private offices would have to slash their 50pc staff and in case of failure the offices of such private companies would be sealed.

Talking about markets, the chief minister said that businesses and commercial centres were allowed to operate from early morning to 6pm, as decided by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC).

“We are sure traders would follow all the SOPs; otherwise the government would impose more restrictions,” he warned.

He said that prison visits had been banned. “No visitor would be allowed to meet inmates in jail,” he said categorically.

Intercity transport to be banned from 29th

The CM said that intercity bus transport would be banned from April 29. However, goods transport would operate as usual.

“I would take all the chief ministers into confidence about the decision of banning intercity transport so that passenger transport may not rush at our borders,” he added.

The CM said that industrial units would operate as usual but with SOPs, adding that restaurants would only offer home delivery and takeaway services.

“Indoor and outdoor dining have been banned completely,” he said.

He said that the provincial government had decided to seek the services of armed forces to assist the district administration and the police to enforce SOPs.

He added that a letter to the ministry of interior seeking the services of the armed forces would be written today [Monday] and its post-facto approval would be sought from the cabinet on Tuesday.

He clarified that all the hospitals, public and private, and medical stores had been exempted from all the restrictions. “They will operate as usual.”

Sharing daily situation report, the chief minister said that six more patients died and 11,855 tests were conducted overnight with 727 new cases including 258 new cases in Karachi.

Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2021

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