HYDERABAD/ KARACHI: Residents of Hyderabad, the second-largest city of Sindh, found themselves gripped by fear as locally transmitted COVID-19 cases soared by 100 in the city on Tuesday. The city is now the only one in Pakistan with 126 cases of local transmission of its total 128, including 94 members of tableeghi jamaats [preaching groups], reported as of yesterday (Tuesday).
According to health department officials, members of tableeghi jamaats, until then, had been roaming freely in various areas of Hyderabad Division.
The sudden spiraling of cases from seven to 128, in just two days, was followed by mass tests at Noor mosque in Wahdat Colony, Qasimabad, on March 29, during which around 200 people quarantined in the mosque, which was sealed on March 27, were tested by the health authorities.
As many as 94 persons among them were found to have contracted the coronavirus. All the infected and suspected patients staying at the mosque were shifted to Labour Colony apartments, Rajputana Hospital and Sindh Government Hospital, Kohsar on Monday.
Reportedly, around 50 persons among them do not hail from the city.
Noor mosque was sealed five days after the lock down was enforced on March 23 and almost two weeks after congregations of all sorts were banned.
In the wake on this development, the government, in a bid to cope with the sudden spike in the contagion’s tally, has set about to converting major hotels, hospitals and student hostels, including those in Jamshoro, into isolation centres.
A portion of Sindh Government Hospital, Kohsar, ten staff members of which have been placed in quarantine, was also sealed.
This was confirmed by a spokesperson of the Sindh Health Department Meeran Yousuf.
Moreover, a bank located near the Hyderabad Press Club was also sealed as one of its staff members tested positive for COVID-19. “It is one of the main branches in the city,” said a journalist, Aftab Ahmed Memon, while talking to The Express Tribune. “Now other staff members at the branch and those who had accounts in the branch are also wary of their health,” he added.
Reportedly, relatives of some of the politicians have also tested positive and are said to have remained in contact with the public before they were tested.
The district administration has established six more quarantine centres, including three private hospitals and as many hotels, to the existing ones in the city. The decision was taken on Monday after the managements of various hospitals communicated to the government that neither had sufficient beds nor staff to take care of the increasing number of patients.
Liaquat University Hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Mazhar Kalhoro told The Express Tribune that the hospital had 60 beds in the quarantine ward to which more than 30 patients were already admitted.
The six new quarantine centres include a 80-bed facility at Rajputana hospital, 28-bed facility at Isra University hospital and 25-bed facility at Memon Charitable hospital.
The district health official has reportedly trained 40 doctors and paramedics to serve in the newly established centers.
The news added to the fears and worry of residents of Hyderabad, who said it would be a challenging task for law enforcement agencies to maintain a lockdown in the city for two weeks.
“We have small houses and staying inside all the times becomes discomforting,” said Muhammad Asif, a resident of Latifabad.
Similarly, Nasir Soomro, a resident of Sehrish Nagar questioned, “We will stay inside our houses but what about those who bring the infection to us?” He said that he and his family members had confined themselves to their house for the past two weeks and yet they were afraid as Hyderabad had turned out to be “an epicentre of the cantagion.”
He attributed the spike in cases of local transmission to the government’s “faulty planning,” which he said “will ruin us all.”
However, despite citizens’ grievances, it has been observed that lockdown has been enforced effectively in many of the city’s densely populated areas including Latifabad, old city localities and parts of Qasimabad.
Quarantined at university
Meanwhile, at least 15 tableeghi jamaat members who were quarantined at a hostel at the University of Sindh, Jamshoro have been able to move back to their homes even after the tested negative for the coronavirus.
Elaborating on the matter, varsity’s Vice-Chancellor Dr Fateh Muhammad Burfat said, tableeghi jamaat members were staying at the university as there was no transport facility available to them. “There is no public transport and we [and the government] cannot let them roam around freely,” he said.
Saying that tableeghi jamaat members were being allowed to stay on the campus with the permission of the varsity’s administration and the district government, he assured all those kept at the university were cleared of the infection.
Meanwhile, Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho confirmed another two fatalities of COVID-19 patients, which have raised the infection’s death toll in the province to eight.
Both the deceased were residents of Karachi and in their 70s. One among them was shifted to a hospital on Monday, after which he was tested for COVID-19. His test result, however, came after he passed away on Tuesday. The other one was shifted to a hospital on March 26.
Meanwhile, 49 patients have recovered in the province.
The number of coronavirus cases spiked to 627 in Sindh on Tuesday, 293 of which were that of local transmission.
Comparing these numbers with those reported on Monday, Sindh Chief Minister, during a meeting, said that over a period of just 24 hours 61 more COVID-19 cases, including 57 locally transmitted cases, had been reported in Sindh.
He called for strict measures to curb the local transmission of the contagion.
The CM said that the purpose of the lockdown would only be served when everyone would observe social distancing voluntarily. “I request our people to stay home, be safe and let other also be safe,” he said.
He later directed the Sindh Energy Minister Imtiaz Shaikh, who heads the team for carrying out relief work in connection with the lockdown, to gather the required data with the help of the Provincial Disaster Management Authority and the National Database Regulatory Authority so that help could be provided to people at the earliest possible.
Members of the team, however, informed him that they had already corresponded with the relevant agencies. At this, the CM directed the provincial chief secretary to coordinate with the agencies to get the required data as soon as possible.