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March 22, 2020

Sindh likely to go for third level of lockdown


March 22, 2020

Fearing an exponential growth in coronavirus cases in Sindh, the authorities have decided to enforce a third level of the lockdown in the province in a couple of days, with complete closure of transport, private offices and banks for a week, except for a single day, as well as patrolling by police and Rangers to enforce the new restrictions.

“Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah is going to hold an important meeting on Sunday [today] with the military leadership in the province and other stakeholders to impose a third level of the lockdown in the province to prevent the spread of coronavirus any further, as people are no more willing to practise social distancing and isolation voluntarily,” an official of the government told The News on Saturday.

The official, who requested anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to the media, said pharmacies, groceries and food shops would remain open, but no decision had been taken to close petrol and gas stations.

Provincial government officials said the lockdown had already started following a circular issued from the Governor House, which said the Governor House had been closed for two weeks except for essential offices and Command and Control Centre there.

Pakistan Peoples Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had earlier hinted at a strict lockdown in the province after he suggested in his tweets that Pakistan must move towards a lockdown. “Every hour, every day that we delay is going to make dealing with the pandemic more difficult. We’re already late, should’ve done it earlier, need decisive action ASAP to mitigate this crisis now.”

“No province can handle this alone. We need the full force of the federal government to facilitate a lockdown, increase tests and assistance for those in need. While we hope for the best we must prepare for the worst. At this rate our health system will be overwhelmed. We must learn from the experience of other countries. It’s a question of when not if. Stay at home now until the government makes up its mind. Stay at home to protect yourselves & others,” he had tweeted.

A spokesman for the government, Barrister Murtaza Wahab, also stated that it was “time for some tough decisions. CM Sindh has discussed with Governor Sindh, Corps Commander Khi, DG Rangers & IG Sindh to ensure full implementation of Govt’s decision of keeping people at their homes. #SindhGovt will ensure that grocery & medical shops remain open”.

Elaborating the steps considered to be taken in the next two days, the government official said the government has decided to enforce the third level of the lockdown and

implement it in letter and spirit. “Tough decisions would include complete closure of public transport, including busses on roads, closure of all the public and private offices except essential services, closure of banks (except one day),” the official added.

The official maintained that as a complete lockdown forcing people to remain indoors was prerogative of the federal government, the Sindh government had decided to use whatever possible within the law to enforce a strict lockdown for two weeks to prevent the spread of coronavirus any further and slow down its spread as much as possible.

“We don’t want to face the situation of Italy where their prime minister is expressing his helplessness despite taking all possible measures and locking down entire cities. We lack resources and the only option we have is to prevent the spread of this disease as much as possible,” the official said.

Stay home regime

A top-level meeting held on Saturday evening at the Sindh Governor House with Governor Imran Ismail in the chair decided to impose a stricter regime in the province to keep people at home on a compulsory basis in the days to come to prevent further spread of the deadly coronavirus epidemic.

The meeting was attended by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, his cabinet members, including the health minister and the law adviser, the corps commander Karachi, the director general of the Sindh Rangers, and other officials.

Firdous Shamim Naqvi, the leader of opposition in the Sindh Assembly belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, PTI MPA Haleem Adil Shaikh, the provincial inspector general of police, the Karachi Commissioner, Dr Nuzhat of the Aga Khan University Hospital and Dr Abdul Bari Khan, also attended the meeting.

The meeting reviewed the arrangements made and precautions taken by the government to prevent the viral spread in Sindh.