LAHORE/KARACHI - One day after the federal government extended partial lockdown in the country, the Centre and Sindh governments on Wednesday announced different lockdown duration and implementation strategy to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister’s Special Assistant on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said the federal and provincial governments will have to work together to cope with the coronavirus challenge. Addressing a joint press conference along with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s Central Vice President and Parliamentary leader of the Party in Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh here, she said Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah was fully empowered under the Constitution to take decisions about easing or extending the lockdown in the province, but as the chief executive of the province he was also responsible to save the vulnerable segments from unemployment, hunger and starvation.

She said that during the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, decisions were made in consensus and for the sake of national unity as the Prime Minister authorised the provinces to take their own decisions regarding lockdown and opening of low-risk industries to provide employment to daily wage workers.

Dr Firdous says Sindh officials are dividing nation at critical juncture

SAPM said all other provinces accepted the decisions made in the NCC meeting but unfortunately Sindh government spokesman, also a provincial minister made a controversial tweet which was an effort to divide the nation at this critical juncture. She said time and again the Sindh government was informed during the meetings of NCC that the provinces were free to take decisions in the larger interest of the people of their respective provinces.

She said the rulers should give hope to the people but the in today’s press conference Syed Murad Ali Shah appeared pessimistic, which might create fear and panic among the people of Sindh. Dr Awan reminded the Sindh Chief Minister that he had the powers to impose curfew in the province under the Constitution but at the same time he had the responsibility to protect the rights of the people of the province. She said if the Sindh government failed to provide rations to the poor segments of the society, it would mean that the lockdown was imposed to protect the rights of the upper class and to promote his image of a ‘good boy’ in the media.

 

She assured that the federal government was ready to cooperate with the provincial government in the process of providing relief to the poor segments of the society and Ehsaas Emergency Cash Programme was its manifestation as disbursements were being made in all provinces including Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan.

 

SAPM said the federal government announced Rs1200 billion relief package after the spread of coronavirus, whereas the Sindh government had not announced any relief package for vulnerable segments of the society.

 

She asked Murad Ali Shah that instead of focusing on building his media image, he should look at the poverty and hunger at the ground and take measures. She said the picture of Qauid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah had been published on the boxes of relief packages given by the federal government as this was not the time of political point-scoring, but serving the masses.

 

Dr Awan said the Prime Minister Imran Khan wanted to take all provinces with him in fight against the coronavirus as the government had been fighting on two fronts, one of controlling coronavirus and the other to protect the people from hunger and starvation.

 

Haleem Adil Sheikh said PTI was in the opposition in Sindh, but it wanted to cooperate with the government of the province at this critical time. He asked Sindh Chief Minister that instead of holding lengthy press conferences, he should perform practically on the ground. He said the Sindh government should disclose where it had distributed relief goods worth billions of rupees.

 

He said Bilawal Bhutto Zardari should know that health sector was a provincial department and the PPP was ruling the province for past 12 years but health infrastructure was in very bad shape. Haleem Adil Sheikh said thousands of youths had joined Tiger Force in Sindh and working actively to provide relief to the deserving people.

 

On the other hand, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah once again appealed to the public to adhere to the restrictions during the lockdown that he says will be stricter than before. “The lockdown will be more intense in the next 14 days,” CM Shah said while addressing a press conference in Karachi on Wednesday.

 

He emphasised that the reason all provinces have agreed to increase the lockdown is because our combat with the novel coronavirus isn’t over yet. “People should know that the danger hasn’t gone. Across Pakistan, approximately 10% results of total tests conducted have come back positive,” he said.

“If anyone thinks that the infection in Pakistan is less intense than other countries, then they are wrong.”

The federal government, with the consensus of other provinces had extended the lockdown till the end of April, but allowed resumption of certain businesses. The Sindh CM explained that certain industries were exempted from the lockdown after a calculated analysis.

 

He added that these companies will provide transport to their employees and the vehicles used for this purpose will be filled only one third so that a social distancing can be maintained.

According to Shah, as of Wednesday, 1,668 known coronavirus cases have been reported in Sindh and 41 deaths. The mortality rate in Sindh is 2.4%. He said 133 people recovered from the virus while six patients have died in the last 24 hours.

He said a stigma about the coronavirus is developing in the country, due to which at least 15 to 20 more people could have died of it, but we don’t have them on record because many families are burying their dead without informing the authorities.

Speaking about the Tableeghi Jamaat members, many of whom many have tested positive for the virus, Shah said around 5,000 are being kept in isolation in Sindh and they’ll be sent home after a week once their tests are conducted. “Those Jamaat members who test negative will be sent back to their homes and their respective deputy commissioners will be provided their whereabouts so they could keep an eye on them.”

As for the foreigners who were part of the Jamaat, they could collect their passports from the Raiwind Markaz. The chief minister regretted that many organisations were revealing names of their employees who have contracted the virus. “I believe this is inhumane,” he said. “If a high ranking official tests positive, their identities are being hidden, but same is not the case for low-grade officials.”

 

Without giving any names, Shah said some provinces had recommended the prime minister allow hairdressers, electricians and plumbers to resume work, but their demand was ruled out because the nature of their work makes it difficult to manage social distancing. He thanked Prime Minister Imran Khan for calmly listening to his suggestions in meetings held to curb the coronavirus spread.

 

About comments of top clerics regarding holding congregational prayers at mosque during Ramazan, he said the provincial government will address their reservations and the PM will talk to them as well.

 

He urged people to pray during the holy month for the virus to end, adding that he doesn’t see a cure for it anytime soon. Since the elderly are most at risk, the Sindh CM asked people to avoid meeting them. “By not meeting them, you’ll be saving their lives,” he said. “They are vulnerable to the virus which you might have brought back home from outside.”

 

He said the medical experts with whom he has been meeting since the first case was reported in Sindh expected the country-wide death toll to reach 190 to 200. The chief minister promised that he’s all ears to the reservations of every business sector and seeks their coordination in these difficult times.