Isolate yourself for three days, Sindh CM appeals to people as COVID-19 cases spike
Factories, mills forbidden from laying off workers, slashing salaries, says labour minister
KARACHI: As the death of the first coronavirus patient in Sindh was reported, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has appealed to the public to voluntarily isolate themselves for the next three days in order to keep themselves safe.
Chairing the daily coronavirus taskforce meeting at the CM House on Friday, Shah pointed out that over the next three days - consisting of the weekend and Pakistan Day - offices would be closed, while hotels are restricted from offering dining services and there are no sports events. "Therefore, there is no need to come out on the streets and move around," he maintained.
"The time has come to demonstrate a responsible attitude by observing voluntary social distancing, and this is only possible when we all choose to remain at home," said the chief minister. Expressing surprise that people were still hosting receptions and gatherings at their homes, he stated, "This is not a time for social gatherings, but for social distancing."
He pointed out that the number of diagnosed patients who had contracted coronavirus through local transmission had reached 51 at the time of the meeting, adding that this was extremely worrisome.
At least 14 new coronavirus cases were reported in Karachi on Friday, pushing the provincial tally to 252, while one person succumbed to the infectious disease in the port city. The deceased, said to be 77 years old, also had cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure, and had no recent travel history, according to Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho.
Meanwhile, the Sindh health department has also set up health desks at the domestic departure and arrival gates at Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, to try to curtail the spread of the virus inside the country.
Looking out for the vulnerable
Amid concerns about the ability of the poorer segments of society to cope with the pandemic and measures being taken to contain it, Sindh Labour Minister Saeed Ghani pointed out that the closures and economic slowdown had impacted thousands of daily-wage workers.
As a result, he said, the Sindh labour department had restricted factories and mills from laying off employees even if production is halted. These businesses have also been prohibited from slashing the salaries of employees.
Separately, Sindh Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu asked the federal government to consider waiving small electricity and gas bills for two months.
"Due to the situation caused by the spread of coronavirus, business
activities are disrupted and people are confined to their houses," he said, adding that the government should provide relief to the people.
"It has become difficult for daily-wage workers and the owners and employees of small businesses to make ends meet in such a scenario."
He requested the Centre to waive electricity bills of up to 300 units and gas bills of up to Rs1,000 for the next two months, adding that even if funds could not be released for Sindh, relief should still be provided to the people.
Meanwhile, in attempts to prepare for a dire need of manpower with a potential widespread outbreak of coronavirus, the Sindh government sought to hire doctors on six-month contracts.
Applications have been sought by the health department from doctors who have completed their MBBS across Sindh, with those who have completed their house jobs and been passed by the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council to be appointed as medical officers where vacancies are open. The health department will accept applications until March 31.
Testing for the virus
In the taskforce meeting, Sindh health secretary Zahid Abbasi told the chief minister that 2,017 samples had been taken for testing from travellers from the Taftan border quarantined in Sukkur, while 83 samples had been taken from those in Larkana. Meanwhile, 1,230 people have been tested for coronavirus in other districts of the province.
Karachi commissioner Iftikhar Shalwani also told Shah that 22 pilgrims who were unable to travel to Iran had returned via Lasbella. The CM gave directives to have them tested and, if they were unaffected by the virus, send them home.
Shalwani further briefed Shah about the quarantine center and field hospital being set up at the Expo Centre in Karachi in coordination with the Pakistan Army. The chief minister instructed him to make necessary arrangements for toilets and resting areas for staff at the facility as well, while permitting the procurement of equipment, medicine, masks and other required items. The facility can currently hold 1,100 patients.
Earlier in the day, the Sindh government revised the tally it had previously given for confirmed coronavirus patients in the province, citing a counting error.