Sindh’s Minister for Education Saeed Ghani announced on Thursday that the provincial government will start easing coronavirus curbs in the province.
“We are headed towards reopening Sindh. Restrictions will no longer increase, rather they will be eased,” said Ghani.
He added that if economic activity in Karachi is curtailed, then it will harm the Sindh government as well.
The provincial minister said that his government had taken difficult decisions to protect the lives of citizens.
‘Positivity in Karachi still above 11%’
On the other hand, Sindh’s Minister for Health Dr Azra Pechuho said that the provincial government would only ease restrictions once people start getting themselves inoculated.
The health minister, addressing a press conference in Karachi, deplored that despite the efforts of the government, people are still hesitant to get themselves vaccinated.
Dr Pechuho said all members of the national and provincial assemblies have been inoculated for the coronavirus vaccine.
“The coronavirus positivity ratio in Karachi is still above 11%,” Dr Pechuho said, adding that Sindh is yet to see an improvement in this regard.
“Hospitals are still receiving coronavirus positive patients.”
She added that Sindh has mandated all provincial government employees get inoculated against the virus.
“People aged 30 and above can now go to walk-in vaccination centres, while people aged 19 to 29 can now get themselves registered for the vaccine,” she added.
Shedding light on further arrangements that Sindh is making to inoculate people, Dr Pechuho said that the government has started negotiating with industrialists.
“We are also planning to vaccinate people at home, while a mobile vaccination service will also be launched soon,” the health minister said.
She said that the government has set a target of inoculating more than 18 million people within three months.
Dr Pechuho said that 17.26 million of Sindh’s population comprises people aged 30 and below, while 1.5 million people have so far been vaccinated.
Dr Pechuho also spoke about the rumours surrounding the coronavirus vaccine.
“The man who spread rumours about people dying within two years of vaccination was foolish,” Dr Pechuho said. “If anyone witnesses side effects of the vaccine, then there are medicines to cure that.”
The health minister said that Sindh has asked the Centre to ensure an uninterrupted supply of vaccines to the province.
Taking a jibe at those who have criticised the government’s decision to impose coronavirus restrictions in the province, Dr Pechuho said it is wrong to say that the move is equivalent to “economic murder.”
“Shops are open, while people are regularly shopping online,” she said. “We didn’t have to impose a curfew in the province.”
The minister also said that COVID-19 did not spread in Sindh like it did in some other countries.
COVID-19 lockdown extended in Sindh
Last month, the Sindh government had tightened curbs once more in view of the rising number of coronavirus cases throughout the province.
According to the home department, a rise in positivity was observed throughout the province, especially in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur.
“The Task Force discussed various ways and means to contain the disease. It was reiterated that compliance of the SOPs (standard operating procedures) for COVID-19 continues to remain a cornerstone measure for control of disease spread,” said the statement.
“The Task Force also decided to issue strict warnings and advice for the public to strictly follow SOPs on COVID control with a warning that if the cases rise, the closure of many activities may have to be undertaken, especially in areas with high positivity,” it added.
The following changes were announced following the meeting:
- Business hours will now be from 5am to 6pm, except for essential services.
- Bakeries and milk shops are allowed to operate till midnight.
- Pharmacies inside shopping malls will close at 6pm, along with other shops.
- Fridays and Sundays to be off days for businesses, except for Hyderabad, where Fridays and Saturdays will be the designated off days.
- All outdoor and indoor dining is henceforth barred; takeaway, drive through and delivery services to continue.
- Public transport — inter-city, intra-city and inter-provincial — allowed with 50% occupancy, strict observance of SOPs.
Places/activities still closed
- Marriage halls, business centres, expo halls.
- Contact sports, indoor gyms, sports facilities, sporting tournaments — indoor and outdoor.
- Theme parks, amusement parks, arcades for video games, carrom/dabbu playing areas.
- Tourist spots such as Keenjhar Lake and Lab-e-Mehran, picnic spots, all beaches, and recreational parks.
- Beauty parlours.
- Cinemas and theatres.
- All types of indoor and outdoor religious, cultural, musical social gatherings.
Special focus areas
Special focus areas identified by the forum were Karachi (District East and South), Hyderabad (Qasimabad, Latifabad, and Taluka Hyderabad City) and Sukkur.
Commissioners in these areas were tasked with identifying hotspots and take the following measures:
- Stop unnecessary movement while ensuring access to essential services.
- Stricter measures to ensure SOP compliance.
- Public awareness through local leaders, influential persons.