KARACHI: As more coronavirus cases emerge in the Sindh province, Sindh Chief Minister, Syed Murad Ali Shah, under a policy decision, ordered the closure of all shrines, marriage halls, and cinema halls for three weeks while the educational process in seminaries and training institutions, marriage functions in clubs and public gatherings, including urs of saints, would also remain suspended till April 5.
He directed the Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) to take the lead in developing taluka-wise data of the families so that in case of any emergency such as a lockdown, people can be reached for food, medicines, and other related supplies or help.
He issued these directives while presiding over two different meetings of the Taskforce on Coronavirus and the Disaster Management Authority at the CM House. The meeting was attended by Minister Health, Dr Azra Pechuho, Minister Information, Nasir Shah, Advisor Law, Murtaza Wahab, Chief Secretary, Mumtaz Shah, IGP Sindh, Mushtaq Maher, Secretary Health, Zahid Abbasi, and other officials.
The Chief Minister said that as the novel coronavirus had evolved into a pandemic; therefore, his government had no option but to take drastic measures to control it to save the people.
“It is high time to close cinemas, marriage lawns, shrines, and urs programs being observed there. We cannot even allow marriage functions at clubs,” he said, adding, “Yes, people can hold marriage functions with limited visitors in their homes.”
Shah directed the Chief Secretary to issue a notification for imposing a ban on public gatherings. “I am sure the people of this province will strengthen my hands in containing the coronavirus,” he said, adding, “When the situation improves, we will reverse our decision of banning social and religious gatherings.”
The Commissioner Sukkur, in his briefing, noted that as many as 293 pilgrims in seven buses had reached Sukkur, and all of them had been taken to the isolation center where their medical checkup and others tests were being conducted. At this, the Chief Minister directed the Commissioner Sukkur to collect the samples of all 293 pilgrims and send them to Karachi for testing. Since there was no testing facility at Sukkur; therefore, he ordered the samples to be airlifted from Taftan. The samples would be tested at the Aga Khan Hospital, Indus Hospital, and DUHS Ojha Hospital.
The Chief Minister also directed the Commissioner Sukkur to develop the data of all the pilgrims so that their collective addresses could be recorded for future strategizing.
He also directed the Commissioner to install TV sets in the rooms of the pilgrims in the isolation center so that they do not feel isolated but feel looked after properly.
Shah told the Commissioner that another batch of 648 pilgrims would be leaving Taftan for Sukkur; therefore, their accommodation arrangements should be made accordingly. Shah also requested the World Health Organization to send its experts along with the experts of the Aga Khan Hospital and Indus Hospital to Sukkur to inspect the facilities. “I am sparing my jet, and it would fly back to Karachi in a day,” the Chief Minister told the WHO and others.
There are 17 cases in Sindh, out of which only one was locally transmitted. At this, the Chief Minister said that this was very dangerous. “This is why I am continuously pursuing the matter to contain the coronavirus,” he said, adding that this was why all kinds of social, political, and religious gatherings all over Sindh had been banned.
The Chief Minister was informed that 26 samples had been sent for lab testing, and their results were awaited. The Sindh Health Department has conducted 282 tests, out of which 267 had been declared as negative while 17 had tested positive.
The Secretary Health told the Chief Minister that 3300 passengers landed at the Jinnah Terminal recently. Out of 3300 passengers, seven were deemed suspects and were kept in quarantine. Their samples had also been taken for lab testing.
The Sindh Chief Minister said that despite financial constraints, he was providing the necessary funds to the hospitals for developing isolation centers and quarantine facilities in every district of the province.
He said that the World Bank had agreed to divest its $10 million funds of its Sindh Resilience Project to the Coronavirus Support Program being launched by the Sindh government. He directed the Chief Secretary to utilize the amount for purchasing necessary equipment such as ventilators, oxygen cylinders, beds, and other gadgets. It was also pointed out that $25 million were being made available by the World Bank to contain the coronavirus in Sindh.