KARACHI: The Sindh government, keeping in view the spike in the fourth wave of coronavirus in the province, particularly the deteriorating situation in Karachi, has decided to impose a partial lockdown for the next nine days till August 8. Sindh reported 2,862 new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours — up from 2,797 a day earlier, making it the highest daily caseload since June 19, 2020. Karachi reported particularly high infection rate of 23.51 percent on July 29 with the province reporting 43 deaths on Wednesday and 44 on Thursday, taking the death toll to 5,971.
Describing the situation as critical, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said the government hospitals were becoming overwhelmed with ever-increasing numbers of seriously-ill patients with 469 patients dying in July alone, while in June, 428 deaths were reported. The Delta variant was spreading very fast in the city and the government needed to strengthen the health facilities in terms of paramedical staff, technicians, beds, ventilators, oxygen and other facilities, he said while addressing a press conference at the CM House on Friday. He was accompanied by Sindh Minister for Information Nasir Hussain Shah, Law Adviser Murtaza Wahab and Parliamentary Secretary on Health Qasim Siraj Soomro.
Under the lockdown, only export-oriented, food and health-related industries, pharmacies, bakeries and other essential services will operate, while all the markets, government offices would remain closed all over Sindh with special focus on Karachi.
“It is not a complete lockdown as was imposed last year, but this is a little loose-lockdown being imposed to save our people and to get a breathing space to strengthen our health facilities, which have come under immense pressure,” said Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.
Shah said that earlier in the day, he had presided over a meeting of the provincial task force on coronavirus in which parliamentary party leaders in the Sindh Assembly, leaders of traders associations such as FPCCI and KCCI and others were invited for consultation. He said a similar meeting was held with Ulema on Thursday and they were briefed on the alarming corona situation and the related pressure on public sector hospitals. “I am thankful to all of them that they not only understood the issue and gravity of the situation but also assured their support in the larger interest of public health,” he said, and added just after taking the decision to impose the lockdown, he had talked to Federal Minister Asad Umar and PM’s aide Dr Faisal Sultan to take them into confidence, and thanked them for their full support and cooperation in this regard.
The CM said that in the task force meeting, its participants were told that the Covid-19 infection rate in Karachi had touched 23.51 percent on July 29, while Karachi East was the worst affected district with 33 percent infection rate, followed by Korangi with 21 percent, Central 20 percent, West 21 percent, South and Malir 17 per cent each. “This cannot be termed as a normal situation and it warrants taking some extraordinary measures,” he said.
The CM said the Delta variant was spreading very fast in the city and a doctor of the Aga Khan University Hospital told the task force meeting that all their Covid patients were detected with Delta variant. “A patient of Delta variant infects five other persons. In such a situation when the detection ratio has reached 33 percent in a particular district and was 13 percent all over the province, we, as a government, are bound to take strict measures to save our people,” he said.
Murad Ali Shah said his government had decided to impose a lockdown, which is 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/persons, utility companies, municipal services, medical and health services have been allowed to operate, while everything else would remain closed. He said the government offices would remain closed till August 08, and a similar advice would be given to the private sector offices to close them or operate them with skeleton staff with strict SOPs.
The CM said that the takeaway facility at restaurants has been suspended till August 08, however home delivery service would continue. He announced that scheduled academic examinations had been postponed during this period for which the boards concerned would announce new dates. He said he would request the offices of the federal government such as banks and others to cut down staff attendance and continue their business hours with strict SOPs.
The Sindh Home Department issued a notification regarding closure of businesses till August 8 throughout the province and also ban on inter city transport.
Meanwhile, the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has decided to take all possible measures to assist the Sindh government in combating the rising trend of coronavirus in the province, especially Karachi. This was announced by the NCOC on Twitter shortly before the Sindh coronavirus task force meeting started. “The measures being undertaken by the federal government include ramp up of critical care capacity including oxygenated beds & vents, availability of oxygen and deployment of LEAs for implementation of SOPs and NPIs,” the NCOC wrote.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said the policy of the federal government regarding complete lockdown was clear, the Supreme Court had also ruled that the provinces cannot make individual decisions in this regard. “No option of complete lockdown is available to any province, policy regarding code is issued by the Federation and NCOC and the provinces are bound to implement it,” Fawad said.
The minister said that Pakistan has fought hard against corona, so far we have managed to save lives and the country’s economy is on its feet. PM’s position on complete lockdown is that it severely affects the working class, and daily wage earners. “If Sindh had followed the SOPs, the situation in Karachi today would not have been serious. Sindh has been given a clear message from the Federation that individual decisions cannot be made, NCOC guidelines must be implemented,” Fawad noted.
Meanwhile, Pakistan recorded its biggest daily increase in Covid-19 cases since April 30, when 4,745 cases were reported in the country. As many as 4,537 infections have been reported against 58,203 tests over the past 24 hours, according to the National Command and Operation Centre. This constitutes a positivity rate of 7.79 per cent. This is the third consecutive day that the country has reported over 4,000 cases, with 4,497 recorded the previous day and 4,119 detected on Wednesday. The total number of cases in the country is 1,024,861. Further, 86 coronavirus-related deaths were also reported during this period, taking the total to 23,295. Most of the deaths occurred in Sindh followed by Punjab.
Out of the total 86 deaths, 50 of them were under treatment on ventilators. As many as 3,117 Covid infected patients were under treatment in critical condition with 33 of them admitted during the past 24 hours in various Covid dedicated healthcare facilities of the country.
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