KARACHI: Calling for the development of a national narrative and action plan to contain the coronavirus pandemic, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that different province-based actions and approaches would not make a difference.
As 41 new coronavirus cases emerged in the province and the death toll increased by one to reach 31 on Monday, the CM said he would request Prime Minister Imran Khan to extend the lockdown to limit the spread of the virus.
Flanked by provincial ministers at a press conference, he pointed out that the pandemic was not an issue specific to Sindh or Pakistan, but one that had created a global crisis. “Our only option is either to contain it or slow it down so necessary health [preparations] can be made. Otherwise, it will wreak havoc everywhere in the province and the country.”
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Shah underlined that the crisis was a serious emergency, the likes of which had not been seen or thought of by anyone. Due to this, he asserted, every decision made to contain it must be made at the national level.
However, he expressed disappointment in the federal government’s earlier remarks stating that the provinces could do what they wanted. “The entire opposition has told the PM that they want to do what he decides,” the CM said. “We were on one page when the Army Public School incident occurred. Are we still waiting for such an incident to occur again? We want the PM to lead and not tell the provinces to do whatever they want.”
Dismissing criticism of the lockdown in Sindh, he maintained he was content in the fact that the other provinces had also taken this step. “We all have made mistakes, but not the mistake of inaction,” he added, pointing out, “We can revive the sinking economy, but we cannot revive those who lose their lives in this pandemic.”
Shah claimed he had appreciated the Centre’s decision to extend the lockdown on April 1, but with some industries reopened on April 3, there was no point of a lockdown if it continued in this way. “We have to impose a planned lockdown, as it is ineffective as of now due to mixed signals from the federal government.”
He stated that though he had tried to contain the spread of the disease, he had failed and it had now intruded into slums and rural areas in Karachi and Hyderabad.
He added that with Ramazan approaching, there was dire need to devise new guidelines for the holy month. “I have said a number of times that life has completely changed and now we will have to change our daily habits. Everything must be based on health advisories.”
Aiding the needy
The CM claimed that the deliberate delays in sharing data about deserving people by federal institutions had prevented the Sindh government from distributing rations as it had pledged.
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However, he said, 250,000 bags of rations had been handed out so far, while 500,000 in total would be given out at people’s doorsteps across the province.
“There is no rocket science in understanding the complications of a lockdown, but the delay in providing aid to the province by the Center is beyond my understanding,” he asserted. “The federal government has initiated the distribution of cash, which is a good thing, but the mechanism should have been different,” he added, pointing out that the crowds gathering at the disbursement points were at risk of spreading the virus.
Referring to much-needed medical equipment, he said vendors in London are ready to dispatch the required equipment, but the federal government has not allotted the required cargo aircraft to airlift the supplies.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2020.