-41 new cases confirmed in Sindh taking provincial tally to 333
-CM Murad announces electricity bill relief, urges people to stay at home
-Says medicine, vegetables and general stores will remain open
-GB follows Sindh steps
-PM opposes lockdown idea across country
From Zeeshan Mirza
KARACHI: The Sindh government has imposed a province-wide lockdown for 15 days in order to contain the spread of COVID-19, on Sunday.
Lockdown in Sindh will be imposed from midnight, announced Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.
People will not be allowed to venture out of their homes unnecessarily under lockdown,” he said, adding that only three persons will be allowed to travel in a car.
Murad Ali Shah said that shops dealing in medicine, vegetables and general stores will remain open during the period.
In an earlier statement issued after a Sindh task force meeting, CM Murad said that he had left with no option except imposing lockdown across the province.
The Sindh government also sought the Pakistan Army’s help to deal with the deadly virus.
In a letter to the Ministry of Interior, the Sindh government requested to deploy armed forces in aid to the civil power in the province under Article 245 of the constitution.
In a video message, the provincial chief minister said that he met with politicians from various political parties during which they discussed the coronavirus and agreed
upon certain steps that needed to be taken. Shah said that following discussions with all stakeholders, it was decided that the only way to control the virus was to curtail its spread. “There is only one way to curtail its spread, as this virus transfers from one person to another very fast, so we need to minimise people’s interaction,” he said. The chief minister said that the spread of the virus should be curtailed and at the same time, health facilities should be improved.
“We should not arrive at a situation where we have more patients and our health facilities are not sufficient,” he cautioned. “The purpose of the lockdown is that all offices and places for gatherings […] will be closed.” He said that those who are not required to do step out in public, will not be allowed to do so. “If someone wants to step out they should have a valid reason.”
The provincial chief minister said that they will try to make sure food is supplied in shops, adding that they were trying to ensure that if someone wanted to step out to buy groceries, they would able to do so once in a two-day period. Shah said that the way to monitor this was that anyone who steps out will carry their computerised national identity card (CNIC) card with them. “Once that CNIC is entered into the law enforcement system, we have the IT facilities to find out in the database if they are going out more than twice.”
The chief minister said that if someone has an emergency, such as taking a patient to a hospital, they will be allowed to do so. He added that two people could go together along with a driver. “Our recommendation is that more than two people don’t sit in a car,” he said. The chief minister said that ATMs will remain open. He said that banks should operate with only their essential staff.
Additionally, Shah said he spoke to K-Electric, Sui Southern Gas Company, Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) ,Sukkur Electric Power Company (Sepco) and Karachi Water and Sewerage Board that there should be no loadshedding. Those whose electricity bills below Rs4,000 will not be required to pay their bill this month, it will be added to their bills over the subsequent months. For Sui Southern Gas Company, the threshold was set at Rs2,000.
The chief minister appealed to landlords to suspend rent for one month.
He said that a new Facebook and Twitter page will be set up which will share all the details about who will be allowed to step out, who won’t be and who will be allowed to do so in certain situations. “These notifications will be updated on a daily basis as we find out problems,” he said. Additionally, a team has been formed headed by the chief secretary that will be available 24 hours.
Shah urged the people of Sindh to support the government’s decision. Prime Minister Imran Khan in his address to the nation has said that a lockdown is not being considered as 25% population of Pakistan is below the poverty line who cannot survive if a 14-day closure of the country occurs. Detailing the lockdown, curfew situation, the premier said that the situation requires armed forces and other security personnel patrolling streets, roadways and alleyways and forceful isolation of the masses which he does not want.
The premier said that people should self-isolate and self-quarantine, act responsibly rather than taking the coronavirus seriously.
PM Imran Khan stressed on the need for social distancing and said that the government is trying to instil that sense of responsibility into the nation so that within the country’s extremely limited resources, those really worthy and in need of coronavirus tests and hospitals may access them.