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pakistan
Sunday May 23 2021
By
Web Desk

Sindh govt tightens curbs again, warns of further restrictions amid rising coronavirus positivity

By
Web Desk
A police officer uses megaphone to disperse shopkeepers, who have gathered to reopen their shops at a closed electronics market, as a lockdown continues in the efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Karachi, Pakistan. — Reuters/File

The Sindh government on Sunday tightened curbs once more in view of the rising number of coronavirus cases throughout the province.

It also asked citizens to heed its warning regarding the spread of COVID-19 and strictly ensure following safety precautions, saying it will otherwise be forced to further close several sectors.

According to the Home Department, a meeting of the provincial task force on coronavirus was held today, in which a rise in positivity was observed throughout the province, especially in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur.

"The Task Force discussed various ways and means to contain the disease. It was reiterated that compliance of the SOPs (standard operating procedures) for Covid continues to remain a corner stone measure for control of disease spread," said the statement.

"The Task Force also decided to issue strict warnings and advice for public to strictly follow SOPs on Covid control with warning that if the cases rise, the closure of many activities may have to be undertaken, especially in areas with high positivity," it added.

The forum also decided to ramp up testing "so that proper positivity is reflected".

The following changes were announced following the meeting:

  • Business hours will now be from 5am to 6pm, except for essential services.
  • Bakeries and milk shops are allowed to operate till midnight.
  • Pharmacies inside shopping malls will close at 6pm, along with other shops.
  • Fridays and Sundays to be off days for businesses, except for Hyderabad, where Fridays and Saturdays will be the designated off days.
  • All outdoor and indoor dining is henceforth barred; takeaway, drive through and delivery services to continue.
  • Public transport — inter-city, intra-city and inter-provincial — allowed with 50% occupancy, strict observance of SOPs.

Places/activities still closed

Medical experts suggested continued restrictions on some places and activities in view of the rising number of cases. These are:

  • Marriage halls, business centres, expo halls.
  • Contact sports, indoor gyms, sports facilities, sporting tournaments — indoor and outdoor.
  • Theme parks, amusement parks, arcades for video games, carrom/dabbu playing areas.
  • Tourist spots such as Keenjhar Lake and Lab-e-Mehran, picnic spots, all beaches, and recreational parks.
  • Beauty parlours.
  • Clinics.
  • Cinemas and theatres.
  • Shrines.
  • All types of indoor and outdoor religious, cultural, musical social gatherings

Educational institutes

All educational institutes will remain closed for two more weeks or until the situation improves, positivity ratios decrease, or until a further review by the task force.

Factories/industries/markets

The owners of all factories and markets have to ensure their employees have a proper ventilated space, observe distancing and have access to washing areas. No extra people must be present inside the working area.

Workers must travel with strict SOP compliance in public transport, or dedicated transport must be provided to them.

Special focus areas

Special focus areas identified by the forum were Karachi (District East and South), Hyderabad (Qasimabad, Latifabad, and Taluka Hyderabad City) and Sukkur.

Commissioners in these areas where tasked with identifying hotspots and take the following measures:

  • Stop unnecessary movement while ensuring access to essential services.
  • Stricter measures to ensure SOP compliance.
  • Public awareness through local leaders, influential persons.

'Hospitals filling up'

Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah, in a press conference, said that the government had relaxed curbs to allow shops to remain open till 8pm but is now forced to withdraw the relaxation and keep closing time fixed at 6pm for the next two weeks.

"The situation was better prior to Eid, but has now taken a turn for the worse," he said.

He said in Sindh, in the past week, a 9% positivity ratio was observed overall. In Karachi, the positivity ratio stood at more than 13% and in Hyderabad more than 10% in this time.

"At this time, hospitals are filling up fast, with many already without any beds," he said.

"We do not wish to enforce strict rules. The people should take precautions voluntarily," he said, in an appeal to the citizens.