• Exports-related industries, bakeries and essential services allowed to operate
• All markets, government offices to remain closed
• Takeaway facility at restaurants suspended, home delivery allowed
• Scheduled exams postponed
• CM Shah says federal minister, PM’s assistant taken into confidence about decision
KARACHI: Keeping in view the spike in cases during the fourth wave of coronavirus in Sindh, particularly the deteriorating situation in Karachi, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Friday decided to impose a lockdown for the next nine days — from July 31 to Aug 8.
He said that only export-oriented, food and health-related industries, pharmacies, bakeries and other essential services would operate, otherwise all markets, government offices and intra-city transport service would remain closed across the province, with focus on the city.
Speaking at a press conference at CM House, the chief minister said: “It is not a complete lockdown as was imposed last year. This is a little loose lockdown being imposed to save our people and get a breathing space to further strengthen our health facilities which have come under immense pressure.”
He said that earlier he had presided over a meeting of the task force on coronavirus in which parliamentary leaders in the Sindh Assembly, leaders of traders’ associations such as FPCCI and KCCI and others were invited for consultation and sensitisation, adding that a similar meeting was held with Ulema on Thursday and all of them were briefed on the alarming Covid-19 situation and the pressure on public sector hospitals.
“I am thankful to all of them that they not only understood the situation and gravity of the issue but also assured their support in the larger interest of public health,” Mr Shah said, adding that just after taking the decision to impose lockdown he had taken federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar and Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Faisal Sultan into confidence and thanked them for their full support and cooperation.
He said the participants of the task force’s meeting were told that the infection rate in Karachi had touched 23.51 per cent on July 29, with Karachi East being the worst-affected district with 33pc, followed by Korangi (21pc), Central (20pc), West (21pc) and South and Malir (17pc) each. “This cannot be termed a normal situation, but it warrants taking some extraordinary measures,” he said.
Talking about the death rate, CM Shah said that in July alone 469 patients had died, while in June 428 deaths were reported. “As many as 44 patients had died on Thursday and 43 on Wednesday,” he said, terming it a very critical situation.
The chief minister said government hospitals were under immense pressure with ever-increasing numbers of serious Covid patients and, therefore, the Sindh government had to strengthen health facilities in terms of paramedical staff, technicians, beds, ventilators, oxygen, etc.
‘Delta variant spreading very fast’
CM Shah said the Delta variant was spreading very fast in Karachi and a doctor of Aga Khan Hospital told the task force meeting that this variant was detected in all their patients.
The chief minister said: “A patient of Delta variant infects five other persons. In such a situation when the detection ratio has reached 33pc in a district and 13pc in the province, we, as a government, are bound to take strict measures to save our people.”
He said that keeping in view the Covid-19 situation the Sindh government had decided to impose lockdown which was a little loose to some extent as health and medical, food and export-related industries, grocery shops, medical stores, bakeries, meat and vegetable shops, petrol pumps, media houses, utility companies, municipal services and medical and health services had been allowed to operate.
However, he said government offices would remain closed till Aug 8 and a similar advice would be given to private sector offices to close them or operate with skeleton staff with strict SOPs (standard operation procedures).
CM Shah said takeaway facility at restaurants had been suspended till Aug 9, but home delivery service would continue. He announced that the scheduled exams had been postponed for which the boards concerned would announce a new date. He said he would request the offices of the federal government such as banks and others to cut staff attendance and continue their business hours with strict SOPs.
The chief minister urged doctors, public representatives, religious scholars, parliamentarians, media houses and other compelling personalities to play their role in sensitising people to stay home, get themselves vaccinated and respect lockdown so that the severity of the fourth wave could be brought down in the province.
The task force meeting was told that the vaccination drive was in full swing and the Sindh government had received 7,600,997 doses of vaccine of which 6,111,027 had been utilised. CM Shah said the salaries of government employees, who had not yet got themselves vaccinated, would be stopped from August.
The meeting was attended, among others, by MPAs Bilal Ghaffar of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Abdul Rasheed of the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, Qasim Fakhri of the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan, Hasnain Mirza of the Grand Democratic Alliance and businessmen Zubair Motiwala and Shaukat Suleman.
Published in Dawn, July 31st, 2021