CM Murad Ali Shah wants all provinces to extend lockdown

KARACHI: The Sindh government wants to extend the province-wide lockdown by one week after April 14, said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Thursday, as calls for the provincial government to resume economic activities increase.

The chief minister was speaking to senior journalists where he said that the Sindh government wanted all the provinces in the country to take unified steps regarding the lockdown. A lockdown has been imposed in the province since last month as local transmission of the coronavirus has increased in Sindh. As of today, Sindh has reported 1,128 confirmed cases of the infection with 21 deaths.

“The Sindh cabinet will take the final decision about the lockdown,” he was quoted as saying. “We are preparing SOPs for everything including industries and factories,” he added.

The Sindh chief ministersaid that closures across the province will not be lifted at once but through a systematic process. “If factories are opened, minimum number of employees will work in them,” he said.

Murad said that shopping malls will remain closed. He said that the business community was exerting pressure on the government to resume economic activity while small traders have supported the lockdown measures.

Saying that allowing the construction sector to keep operating will contribute to the spread of the coronavirus, Murad urged the federal government to extend the lockdown for an additional week.

“If the federal government extends the lockdown for an additional week, the situation can be brought under control,” he said. The chief minister expressed concerns that the virus can spread through the distribution of rations as thousands were assembling at places to receive them.

“We have reservations with the federal government over several issues,” he said. He said that the provincial government was worried that more cases of the novel coronavirus are being reported from slum areas after informing the public that seven members of one family had been infected in Karachi.

In a video message, the chief minister said that initially one person from the family had gone out and was infected. The disease then passed on to other members of the family including a one-year-old boy and six-year-old girl.

He urged the people who were going out to receive ration bags or cash being distributed by the government to take precautionary measures and practice social distancing. He also shared that 92 new cases had emerged in the province over the past 24 hours while 69 people had recovered. One more person had passed away.

He said that 1,380 pilgrims had arrived in Sindh out of whom 1,108 tested negative. Even so, he said they were quarantined for 14 days and had gone home Wednesday. Currently the number of positive cases in Sindh is 1,128 out of which 349 have recovered.

He said that it would take a while for the lockdown to be lifted and once it is industries and business would have to ensure that preventive measures are being taken.

Separately the chief minister’s spokesperson said the standard operating procedures will be defined for each industry before lifting the lockdown. The final decision over the extension of the lockdown will be taken before its expiry on April 14 after consulting all stakeholders.

The Sindh government had imposed a lockdown for two weeks on March 23. It was later extended till April 14 in line with the federal government’s decision. Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said, “What we feared has happened” as he confirmed that seven members of a family had contracted the coronavirus.

Separately, a draft of the Sindh Coronavirus Emergency Relief Ordinance was sent to the governor for approval by the law department. Under the law, people worst affected by the virus will be provided financial relief.

The draft also covers orders for private schools across the province to adhere to a 20 percent reduction in fees. “No school will be allowed to charge more than 80 percent of the fee,” it said.

Moreover, relief in the utility bills for water, electricity and gas will also be provided to residential consumers and businesses. According to the ordinance, landlords will not be allowed to take rent valued under Rs50,000 for a temporary period. This rent will, however, be payable later.

Rent up to Rs100,000 will be slashed by half. For rent more than Rs100,000, payment will have to be made in full. Furthermore, those consuming up to 155 units of power will be exempted from paying, while those consuming 200 units will have to pay up to 25% of the charges. For a 300-unit consumption, consumers will have to pay 50 percent of the charges.

The Sindh government has decided to impose three-hour complete lockdown on Friday between 12:00 noon to 3:00 pm as a measure to contain spread of coronavirus announced home department on Thursday.

According to the Home Department a complete lockdown for three hours will be imposed Friday during the timings of Friday prayers however the orders will not apply to the private hospitals.

The department has also warned strict action against the persons involved in the violation of the restrictions. It is pertinent to mention here that the provincial had banned all kinds of public and religious gatherings across Sindh to curb the spread of COVID-19 pandemic.

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