Sindh CM seeks harmony with Centre over virus SOPs

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From Zeeshan Mirza

KARACHI: In the wake of the federal government’s decision to end the countrywide lockdown in phases starting Saturday, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announced on Friday that the province will ease the lockdown from Monday.
Speaking at a media briefing, the chief minister said there will be a “100% lockdown” on Saturdays and Sundays.
He said industries related to the constructions sector will operate as per the SOPs.
The Sindh CM explained shops will stay open from Fajr (early morning) till 5pm and selected outpatient departments (OPDs) in hospitals will also open. He said the provincial government has already allowed 660 factories to resume operations on the Centre’s instruction.
He said neighbourhood shops, except shopping centres and departmental stores, will be allowed to do business.
Murad said the Centre and the provincial government are working together despite some differences.
He clarified Sindh government is not working in isolation but with the federal government.
He added the federal government didn’t like some steps which the provincial government proposed while the latter didn’t agree with some suggestions put forth by the former.
598 new cases were reported in the province over the past 24 hours with five more deaths, the chief minister said.
The total number of cases in the province has soared to 9,691 while the number of people who died from the infection has risen to 176, he said, adding 5,532 tests were carried out over the previous 24 hours in the province.
Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah on Friday declared that the Sindh government will work alongside the Centre to implement the new lockdown measures for the mitigation of the coronavirus outbreak.
“We will implement the federal government’s lockdown decisions to the extent of 99% if not 100%,” he said.
The chief minister said that businesses will be allowed to operate five days a week and will remain closed on Saturdays and Sundays, with the exception of those granted exemptions such as grocery stores and pharmacies.
Shah then elaborated on the new lockdown standard operating procedures (SOPs) for businesses. He said that the province will follow to a tee, the timings allowed for businesses to operate — from sehri to 5pm.
The chief minister said that areas classified as dehs (a demarcation of land inhabited by farming communities) will be able to keep shops open as they are less populated.
He also said that small shops located in residential areas will be permitted to operate.
Shah, while acknowledging that small business owners are facing “extreme hardships”, requested the federal government to devise a scheme whereby they be provide loans on easy payback terms.”
Let me clarify to traders, restrictions are not being imposed by us (Sindh),” he said.
“It was the federal government’s decision to keep large markets closed,” he said, adding that keeping shopping malls closed was a unanimous decision taken by all governments.
He said that a committee comprising the Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar, education minister Saeed Ghani, information minister Nasir Hussain Shah and law adviser Murtaza Wahab will meet with the traders to engage with them on their concerns and reservations which will be forwarded to the Centre.
He went on to say that all industries that were shut down before May will remain closed.
Similarly, public venues where large gatherings can occur such as wedding halls and cinemas will also remain shut.
“We have not forbidden weddings, but large gatherings will not be allowed.”
He said that keeping in spirit with the Supreme Court directives, which had called for a uniform plan to be implemented countrywide, the Sindh government had agreed to support the Centre in its decisions.
Shah said that there will be a complete ban on political rallies.Hospital out patient departments (OPDs) will now be open.’Sindh not competing with anyone’
The chief minister said that it will always be a point of regret that the provincial government was unable to effectively undertake distribution of food supplies “due to a lack of data”.
He said that “having thousands gather for distribution of money was also inappropriate”, in reference to the federal government’s Ehsaas Emergency Cash programme which gave out Rs12,000 to millions of families across the country at distribution centres.
Shah said that Sindh’s ratio of increase in the number of infections was lower than other provinces. “We will have to be very careful in the coming days. If you hold your lives dear, please exercise caution,” he said.