In the wake of a surge in Covid-19 cases, the Sindh government announced on Monday a new set of Covid-19 restrictions, imposing a ban on inter-city travel from April 29 and directing all educational institutions, including universities, to suspend classes.
The decision to tighten pandemic-related restrictions was taken during a coronavirus taskforce meeting, presided over by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah.
Addressing a press conference after the meeting, the CM said, “We have also decided to seek the assistance of the armed forces to help district administrations and the police in the implementation of coronavirus-related standard operating procedures.”
“A letter for seeking the assistance of the armed forces will be written to the Ministry of interior today (Monday), and approval for the deployment of army will be sought from the Sindh cabinet on Tuesday,” the CM said.
He further told media persons that while there was sufficient oxygen in stock to cater to Covid-19 patients in the province for the time being, his government had decided to multiply the capacity and would be purchasing one oxygen plant from Italy and another one from China.
Closure of educational institutions
The CM said the taskforce meeting had decided to close all schools, colleges and universities in Sindh with immediate effect, in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Amid the third wave, the Sindh government had initially announced the suspension of on-campus classes for the students of grades one to eight at the start of April. According to the directives then issued by the provincial government, on-campus classes for the said grades were to remain suspended from April 6 to April 21.
However, Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani had clarified during a press conference that during the said period, schools could conduct online classes for grades one to eight, correspond with students and parents via WhatsApp and email and parents could visit schools to collect homework.
Later on April 18, the provincial extended the restriction on on-campus classes for grades one to eight till May 1. However, educational institutions had been permitted to continue to hold on-campus classes for the students of grades nine to 12 with 50 percent attendance in a class.
However, following the relentless rise in Covid-19 cases in the recent days- with the province reporting the highest single-day tally on Sunday since January- the provincial government announced on Monday the closure of all educational institutions in Sindh.
Besides the closure of schools and a ban on inter-city transport effective from April 29, the Covid-19 taskforce meeting agreed to close all government offices and directed most of the staff to work from home, the CM said.
Only 20 percent staff will be called to government offices, according to the new set of restrictions.
Secretaries have been asked to call only necessary staff to offices and office hours have been curtailed to five hours, from 9am to 2pm, said CM Shah.
With regards to entities operating in the private sector, the CM said, only 50 percent staff were to be called to offices and the rest were to work from home.
However, he added that entities providing essential services, including hospitals and medical stores, had been exempted from these restrictions.
Moreover, the government has imposed a complete ban on outdoor and indoor dining. However, eateries have been allowed to provide takeaway and home delivery services.
The provincial government has upheld its earlier restriction on commercial activities, stating that shopping centres are to open early in the morning and close by 6pm, the CM said.
“However, if Covid-19 cases continue to rise, they will be completely closed,” the Sindh CM’s spokesperson, Abdul Rashid Channa, separately told The Express Tribune.
The CM also warned during the press conference that the Sindh government could tighten the restrictions if traders failed to follow Covid-19 SOPs.
While the meeting decided to place a ban on inter-city transport, it agreed to allow goods transport and allow industries to functions, subject to coronavirus-related standard operating procedures.
It was also decided during the meeting that public visits to prisons and offices would not be allowed.
According to the CM, of 664 ICU beds equipped with ventilators in Sindh, 47 were occupied as of Monday. Similarly, of 1,872 HDU beds equipped with ventilators, 296 were occupied on the day.
“This means we have enough facilities for treating [Covid-19] patients as of now, but we have decided to upgrade and multiply our facilities,” he said. “We have no oxygen shortage, with three oxygen plants installed in government facilities- one at Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Accident, Emergency and Trauma Centre, another at the Dow University of Health Sciences’ Ojha campus and one at the Gambat Institute of Medical Sciences, Khairpur.”
The CM said the Sindh government would be purchasing two more oxygen plants- one from Italy and another from China.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 27th, 2021.
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