KARACHI: The spike in Covid-19 cases has sent alarms bell ringing in the Sindh administration as health officials proposed on Monday immediate closure of primary schools, imposing a ban on indoor dining along with other restrictions fearing the fourth wave of the pandemic in the metropolis amid growing exposure of people due to approaching Eidul Azha.

The Sindh health department formally put its proposal to higher authorities warning that if the immediate measures were not taken the situation could further worsen and would ultimately lead to pressure on the health system.

They believed that the situation demanded a quick response from the authorities, which had assured to take up the proposals with the chief minister and decide the future strategy.

However, it was made clear that before any decision from the top smart lockdowns must be enforced with immediate effect on the advice of local administration, which was asked to identify areas with higher infection rate.

The measures proposed include two-day business closure, ban on indoor dining, etc

The hours-long discussion on coronavirus situation came during a meeting, which was chaired by Sindh Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah at the Sindh Secretariat.

In the meeting, the chief secretary warned that marriage halls, temporary cattle markets set up before Eid, restaurants and markets would be sealed if found violating Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Action against SOP violators ordered

“During the meeting, the chief secretary directed all the commissioners and deputy commissioners to take strict action against violations of pandemic-related SOPs,” said a statement issued after the meeting, where a number of proposals were finalised and are to be presented before the coronavirus task force headed by the Sindh CM.

The statement added: “The chief secretary directed all the divisional commissioners, including Karachi commissioner, to impose smart lockdowns in the areas where cases of coronavirus are on the rise.”

The key point during the meeting emerged when Sindh Health Secretary Kazim Jatoi presented alarming numbers of infection rate mainly in Karachi and a few other urban centres of the province. He was convinced that the situation could only be controlled through restriction on certain activities of daily life.

“At the meeting, Health Secretary Jatoi proposed to close primary schools,” said the statement. “He further proposed banning indoor dining, minimum attendance in wedding halls and complete closure of business two days a week. On this, the chief secretary said that the proposals of the health department would be presented in the meeting of the task force headed by the Sindh chief minister.”

Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar, who also heads the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), last month had warned that the country might be hit by a fourth Covid-19 wave in July if SOPs were not adhered to.

Though the situation in other parts of the country does not appear so threatening, the growing number of Covid-19 patients in Sindh emerges as a serious challenge for the provincial authorities.

Karachi infection rate reaches 14pc

Sources aware of the recently updated data said that the infection rate in Karachi had touched 14 per cent mark and in Hyderabad it was around 4.5pc.

During the meeting chaired by the chief secretary, the officials of the health department informed that 3.35 million vaccinations had been carried out in the province.

“Vaccination is being carried out in the province through PPHI, 647 vaccination centres of the health department and 347 mobile teams,” said the statement.

“The chief secretary directed all the commissioners and deputy commissioners to complete the target of vaccination and said that all measures should be taken to stop the spread of coronavirus,” it said.

He also directed health authorities and deputy commissioners to increase the mobile teams for vaccination.

Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2021

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