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Sunday Mar 22 2020
Web Desk

Coronavirus: What does a lock-down in Sindh mean? Saeed Ghani explains

Web Desk

KARACHI: With the looming lock-down in Sindh amid the coronavirus emergency, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani on Sunday explained what the curfew would entail, among other details.

Speaking to Shahzad Iqbal on Geo News' programme, Naya Pakistan, Ghani stressed that it was not a partial lock-down but a "strict and complete" one.

"However, when a decision to impose a two-week lock-down is announced, we have to ensure the supply of basic necessities, continue health facilities, fix the system of water, sanitation, and sewerage, and we have to allow people to go out to purchase items of daily use.

"People are allowed to go outside only for urgent needs," he said, adding that there were conditions implemented on how to go outside, who could do so, and for what kind of needs.

"People will not be allowed to take their entire families in a car for grocery shopping. If one can drive, that's good; otherwise, only one person will be allowed to accompany the driver.

What to do in an emergency?

"If someone needs to go to the hospital [or doctor] in an emergency, they can have one person accompany them in the car as an attendant. Only two people can go.

"Further, anything important, such as grocery shops will be open, so the people who work at that shop will be allowed to go outside. Similarly, since grocery shops are allowed to remain open, the flour mills, rice mills, and factories producing basic necessities will be allowed to stay open as well.

"Pharmaceutical firms and companies can stay open and employees of those facilities will be allowed to go out as well. However, we have told the factories' owners to only call in the employees who are urgently needed and, at the same time, make sure that everyone follows the precautionary measures.

Will banks be open?

Ghani added that banks will be closed but the automated teller machines (ATMs) will stay open. "Export- and import-related issues at banks with regard to the factories that are allowed to stay open can continue but normal public banking will remain closed.

"All offices in the province of Sindh will remain closed with only the aforementioned exceptions," he mentioned.

The minister noted that the sanitation department will stay open, health-related operations will continue, as would water supply, local government, and cleaning department. "Everything else will remain closed.

"It's a complete lock-down for 15 days but we will ensure that people are allowed to purchase basic necessities," Ghani said.

Violators of lock-down may be jailed

As for violators of the lock-down, he said those who do not heed the instructions will be arrested by authorities under Section 144 and may be sent to jail.

"Understandably, the economy will be affected due to the measures we are taking and so will be the daily wage earners. We have, however, taken some steps to provide relief to and facilitate them.

"For example, there will be no electricity or gas bills to pay. We will request cable operators not to charge their dues this month. We are also asking landlords not to ask for rent payments for a month and receive it next month through some kind of installment system.

'Relief worth Rs6,000-10,000 per person'

"Through this, therefore, we are expecting that people will be given relief worth Rs6,000-10,000 per person.

"There's also a possibility that we set up and announce a number on which people can send SMS [text message] and, after their registration, we will provide them assistance — which can be through either ration or a cash transfer — so that the daily-wagers are able to get at least some sort of relief."

The minister said these measures, as of now, were being taken on a provincial level but that chief minister Sindh has informed that the government will consult its federal counterpart in this regard.

Welfare organisations on board

"We're currently doing two things: we have strengthened the health [sector] to fight the coronavirus by releasing funds and we need huge funds to provide relief to the people.

"We've also taken welfare organisations on board so that we can work in collaboration," he said, adding that they included Seylani, Chhipa, Edhi, Alamgir Foundation, and Al-Khidmat, among others.

He said the organisations, when asked what would be appropriate worth of rations for 15 days, said Rs2,000-2,500 would be suitable for a family of five-to-six people.

Who is exempt?

According a notification from the Sindh government's home department, anyone related to the health services like hospitals, laboratories, and medical stores, law enforcement agencies, any person in the need of medical care (with an attendant where necessary) or going to buy grocery and medicines were exempt during the lock-down.

"Necessary and/or unavoidable religious rites like last rites, Namaaz-e-Janaza, Burial and related events [were exempt] provided that all precautions against spread of disease are taken and a safe distance of 01 metre (3 feet) is maintained between people gathered in small numbers/ close family members after prior intimation to SHO of the area," the notification added.

"Assistant Commissioner and SDPO of the area will supervise and as and when necessary provide added force/manpower for compliance," it read.

Conditions for those exempted to travel

The people who were granted exemption were subject to the following conditions:

• Travel in single number in a vehicle but they may carry one more as an attendant in case there is some medical emergency

• One person per family may go out to buy essential medicines, grocery, etc., with a driver only in the case of elderly or handicapped

• Person in vehicles carrying essential food items, such as products from mills or factories, medicines, and medical equipment, with only a helper or cleaner allowed on vehicle and no passenger allowed on such a vehicle

• Persons travelling or going out as exempted were obligated to carry their valid identification card (or CNIC) and an official card or an authority letter duly signed and stamped by the Head; they were also required to travel & gather at work keeping in view social (1 metre / 3 feets) & taking safety precautions against the spread

Essential services

The essential services, as per the notification, were as follows:

• Health and related services, such as hospitals, medical stores, laboratories, manufacturers

• Food and related industry or manufacturers

• Grocery stores, as well as general and convenience stores

• Fish, meat, vegetable, and fruit vendors, as well as dairy shops

• Essential municipal services

• Electricity and SSGC

• Water supply (including supply by water tankers where essential) and sewerage

• Port operations, PNSC, and Customs services

• PTA, PTCL, and NTC service staff

• Cellular companies' services staff for repair and maintenance of towers and cables

• Banks (with limited staff for services)

• Petrol pumps

• Welfare organisations, such as Chhipa, Edhi, Seylani, and JDC, providing essential services

• Media persons authorised by Information department, as well as newspaper hawkers

• Any other class as may be deemed essential and so declared by the Government