Lockdown imposed in Sindh till Aug 8 as Covid-19 cases surge
Doctors say pressure mounting on government health facilities, all markets to remain closed
A lockdown will be imposed in the province of Sindh from tomorrow (July 31) till August 8 as provincial authorities try to mitigate the spread of the deadly Delta variant of coronavirus.
The decision was taken during a meeting of the Sindh government's Covid-19 task force in Karachi to mull further restrictions in the port city as the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus fuels the spread of the pandemic.
All markets will remain closed during the lockdown, however, pharmacies are allowed to remain open and function. Grocery stores, meat and vegetable shops, banks and fuel pumps will also remain open. However, essential shops will close at 6pm.
According to the handout released by the CM's office, businesses associated with the export sector will also be allowed to operate during the lockdown's duration.
During the lockdown period, authorities can also snap-check vaccination certificates of citizens who step outside their homes. The meeting further decided to withhold the salaries of those government employees who are not vaccinated after August 31.
Inter-city transport will remain suspended during the period and government offices will remain closed from next week.
'All positive cases are of Delta variant'
The chief minister, addressing the media later in the day, quoted health officials as saying that all positive cases in Karachi were of the deadly Delta variant of the virus.
“The most affected in this situation is Karachi, due to the dense population which makes social distancing difficult.”
“Looking at the situation, [we can say] that hospitals may choke in four to five days if we do not take steps to control the spread of the virus.”
In this scenario, the CM added, the meeting was held with the stakeholders. "We have decided to enforce a partial lockdown in the province."
"This lockdown will remain in place from tomorrow (Saturday) till August 8 and we will proceed towards easing the restrictions by August 9."
Murad also asked the public to cooperate fully in helping to mitigate the virus' spread. He stated that the partial lockdown is basically aimed at "preventing the hospitals from getting choked".
The chief minister said that he has spoken to National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) Chairman Asad Umar and Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) on Health Dr Faisal Sultan, and the two have assured their cooperation in implementing the decisions made by the provincial government.
The approach, Murad added, is aimed at achieving three objectives; compliance of SOPs, improving healthcare facilities and reducing pressure on the hospitals, and ensuring maximum vaccinations. "We will not let the process of vaccinations be affected during the lockdown."
"Transport will remain suspended in the province during the lockdown, but those travelling to get inoculated will be exempted from the restriction."
"Among the essential services, health facilities, food-related industries, export businesses, stock exchange and banks (with minimum staff), Karachi port, groceries, bakeries, meat and vegetable stores will remain open until 6 pm during the lockdown," the CM elaborated.
Offices of utility companies and municipal services will also remain open, while restaurants will only be allowed to do home deliveries, he added.
"Furthermore, petrol pumps will remain open while media persons will be allowed to fulfil their duties while wearing mandatory facemasks," he added.
Referring to examinations, the provincial chief executive said there will be no examinations next week and they will be rescheduled to future dates.
"The only way to prevent another lockdown afterwards is to strictly adhere to the SOPs and increase vaccinations," he remarked.
He reiterated that all vaccinations centres will remain open during the lockdown.
The meeting earlier today, presided by Chief Minister Murad, was held to take all the stakeholders into confidence regarding the current Covid-19 situation. Hence, members of the opposition and the business community were also invited.
Sindh Health Secretary Dr Kazim Jatoi had appraised the forum that the Covid-19 positivity rate had risen to 13.7 per cent across the province.
He elaborated that 45 patients died in the last 24 hours and at present, there were 39,958 Covid-19 active cases in the province out of which 1,410 are hospitalised and around 1,192 patients were in critical condition
He added that there were about 102 patients on ventilators.
Read More: Sindh mulls lockdown amid Covid surge
The Covid-19 positivity rate was 23 per cent in Karachi, 14.52 per cent in Hyderabad and 2.9 per cent in Sukkur. District East has a positivity rate of 33 per cent.
Korangi is at 21 per cent, Central's positivity ratio is 20 per cent, West at 19 per cent and Karachi South and Malir at about 17 per cent.
Doctors at the meeting said the Covid-19 situation in the province was deteriorating which was mounting pressure on government hospitals as the Delta variant of the coronavirus was spreading fast.
CM Murad said that he also had a meeting with the religious clerics yesterday wherein he also informed them about the Covid-19 situation.
The federal government has also decided to ramp up critical care capacity in Karachi as the Delta variant continued to spread unabated in the city, the NCOC announced today.
In a tweet, the NCOC stated that it “critically reviewed” the rapid spread of the virus in the city and decided to assist the Sindh government through all possible measures.
It added that the Centre will ramp up critical care capacity including ensuring the availability of oxygenated beds and vents.
The federal government will also be assisting the provincial government through the deployment of law enforcement agencies for the implementation of SOPs and other non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs).