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August 9, 2020

Businesses, educational institutions to reopen in Sindh on Sept 15: CM Murad Ali Shah

Karachi

August 9, 2020

The Provincial Task Force on Coronavirus has decided to reopen educational, business and social activities all over the province on September 15, as was proposed by NCC, but the provincial government will review the situation once again in the first week of the next month to go ahead with the plan.

The decision was taken at a meeting in Karachi on Saturday with Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in the chair.

At the outset of the meeting, the chief minister said that just after a Council of Common Interests (CCI) meeting, the prime minister had chaired a National Coordination Committee meeting in Islamabad on August 6, in which it had been decided to reopen all business activities, including educational institutions, on September 15. However, it had also been decided that the provincial governments would review the situation in their task force meetings to take final decisions.

The task force meeting was attended by provincial ministers Dr Azra Pechuho, Saeed Ghani, Mukesh Chawla and Nasir Hussain Shah, and adviser Murtaza Wahab, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar, Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, Sindh IGP Mushtaq Maher, Principal Secretary to CM Sajid Jamal Abro, Additional Chief Secretary Home Usman Chachar, Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani, Health Secretary Kazim Jatoi, Brigadier Hussain Masud of Corps-5, Commander Rizan of the Pakistan Navy, Dr Aziz, Dr Faisal, Mushtaq Chhapra, Ayaz Soomro of Unicef, Dr Sara of WHO and others.

COVID-19

Minister for Health Dr Azra Pechuho told the meeting that the coronavirus situation had improved in the province, and the number of new cases had started declining.

At this, the CM said that during the last 30 days cases had dropped further. He added that on July 8, 1782 new cases were reported and on every successive day the number kept dropping down, and finally on August 7, 2020, 487 new cases were reported.

“This doesn’t mean that the coronavirus has been eliminated or contained but it teaches us that the virus still exists and we have to learn how to live with it until its vaccine is prepared,” he said.

What WHO wants?

Secretary for Health Kazim Jatoi read out the key recommendations released by the World Health Organisation. They include:

- Share best practices, apply lessons learned from countries that are successfully reopening social activities, including business, schools and other services and mitigating resurgence of COVID-19.

- Sustain political commitment and leadership for national strategies and localised response activities driven by science, data, and experience and engage all sectors in addressing the impact of the pandemic.

- Continue to enhance capacity for public health surveillance, testing and contact-tracing.

- Strengthen community engagement, empower individuals and build trust by addressing mis/dis-information and providing clear guidance, rationales and resources for public health measures.

- Engage in the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) accelerator, participate in relevant trails and prepare for safe and effective therapeutic vaccine introduction.

- Maintain essential health services with sufficient funding, supplies and human resources, prepare health systems to cope with resources, prepare health systems to cope with seasonal influenza, other current disease outbreak and natural disasters.

The chief minister decided that the COVID-19 hospitals established at NIPA and University Road would continue to function, and they would be strengthened. However, he directed the health minister to review the requirement of the Field Isolation Center at the Expo Centre.

“If you want to continue with the facilities, please go ahead; otherwise, it may be wound up and its equipment may be shifted where they are required,” he said.

The chief minister sought the opinion of leading doctors in the meeting about the opening of social, educational and business activities, and they supported reopening them but under strict SOPs.

Policy decision

The chief minister, taking a policy decision, said the business activities in the province would be allowed to continue till 9pm, while the restaurants would also be allowed to operate till 10pm.

“The timing may be enhanced on weekends,” he said and added that we have to change our behaviours by starting the day early in the morning and ending latest by 10pm.

Shah said that in the first week of September we would sit again to review the situation and decide on reopening social, business and educational activities. “Once it is allowed, the home department would issue a notification of the opening of the activities and announce SOPs,” he said.

He thanked all members of the task force for their valuable input under which decisions were taken. “Our decisions were so accurate and workable that other provinces followed them,” he said and added, “Inshallah, we will take final decisions of opening the activities together.”