KARACHI                   -            Sindh Chief Minister (CM) Syed Murad Ali Shah has said that the number of coronavirous cases in Sindh have reached 103; including 76 reported from Sukkur/Taftan while 27 from Karachi.

“I am not worried about 76 cases reported from Sukkur because the pilgrims are living there in a proper isolation, but the alarming thing is that more than eight cases of virus have surfaced in the port city,” said Murad.

Addressing a press conference here at the CM House on Monday, the chief minister urged people of the province to avoid going to social gatherings and meeting with people. “You will have to adopt isolation voluntarily-this is the only solution to the spread of coronavirus,” he said.

The chief minister, reacting to a report presented by the commissioner Karachi, said that people were still thronging restaurants, hotels, and tea stalls. “This is not acceptable, and I request the people to adopt self-isolation; otherwise I will have no option but to order closure of restaurants, hotels, chai khanas and such other facilities,” the CM said categorically.

Murad told the police and the administration to work out a plan to control crowds, otherwise give a notice to the restaurant and hotels owners to close their facilities by 9 pm. “I’ll take the final decision in this regard very soon,” he said.

The chief minister told the media that samples of 157 suspected coronavirus patients from Sukkur’s quarantine centre were tested, out of which 76 had been tested positive. “The health department has conducted 392 tests so far, out of which 27 have been declared positive,” the CM disclosed.

Giving details of the cases, he said that 9 cases had a travel history of Syria, three of Dubai, four of Iran, eight had contracted the disease locally, one had travelled to Qatar while two had a travel history of Saudi Arabia.

He further said that in all 17 people had come into contact with those who had travelled to Saudi Arabia, of whom three were tested positive. “Apart from local cases, there are 13 severe pneumonia cases which have been sent for the lab test,” Murad elaborated.

The chief minister said that eight contact cases were serious, and “We all have to understand the severity of the situation,” he said, and added, “Coronavirus is not fatal, but it spreads through contacts and we all will have to adopt isolation voluntarily.

The chief minister told the media that some 37 flights were scheduled on Sunday, of which eight were cancelled, while of 5,112 passengers who arrived, nine had been kept in quarantine as suspected patients. “There samples have been taken and sent for the lab test,” he added.

Murad urged the people of Karachi, Hyderabad, and other densely populated cities and towns of the province to keep distance from each other, keep washing hands number of times.

“This is purely an issue of precautions, but I am sorry to say people are still holding gatherings and thronging the shopping centers,” he said, and added, “This is what I want you [people of Sindh] to avoid.”

Replying to a question about a possible lockdown, the chief minister said whatever the circumstances, grocery shops, super stores, vegetable shops, chicken and mutton shops would not be closed. “I am surprised that panicked by the rumours of a lockdown, people have started stock piling groceries,” the CM said, and told the people that they needed not to stockpile groceries. “Neither we will allow hoarding nor will the shops be allowed to be closed,” he said categorically.

To a question, Murad said that there were testing facilities at Aga Khan, Ojha and Indus hospitals. “We are testing only those who have a travel history and who came into contact with them,” he said, and added those who wanted to get them tested could test at their own expenses.

Taskforce Meeting

Earlier, presiding over 19th meeting of the Taskforce on Coronavirus, the chief minister directed the commissioner Sukkur to make effective arrangements for the 76 patients of coronavirus.

The commissioner said that he had reserved a separate block for the newly diagnosed patients, and they all were cooperating with the medical team.

He was told that some of the doctors were reluctant to go into the isolation center, but when a team of doctors, the chief minister dispatched to Sukkur, met them and briefed them about the precautions they started working voluntarily.

Some Ulemas from Karachi, whom the chief minister had sent to meet with the pilgrims living at isolation center at Sukkur, briefed them about the situation and consoled them that they were not alone, but the government, the administration and the religious leaders were all with them. The pilgrims then started cooperating with the administration soon after.

Murad also directed the commissioner to make arrangements for another batch of over 600 pilgrims reaching Sukkur from Taftan on Tuesday (today).

The commissioner Karachi told the chief minister that during the last nine days his Control Center had received 477 calls. He said his helpline had also received another 110 messages on Whatsapp. “Those who had a travel history were asked to go for the medical treatment,” he informed the CM.

The chief minister directed the commissioner Karachi and IGP to start raiding the stores, shops and godowns where sanitizers, hand wash, tissue papers had been hoarded and were being sold at higher rates and put them behind the bars. “This cannot be tolerated and take strict action against the culprits,” he ordered.

PM meeting

Murad also attended the meeting with Prime Minister Imran Khan from CM House through a video link. The chief minister briefed the prime minister about the measures his government had taken to contain the coronavirus.

Murad also shared with the prime minister the number of cases tested positive.

Meeting with parliamentarians

The chief minister also held a meeting with the parliamentarians of different political parties, and took them into confidence about the steps he had taken so far to stop the virus from spreading.

Those who attended the meeting included four leaders of MQM-P, who came there led by Khawaja Izhar, three of PTI, led by Dr Saeed Afridi, two of GDA, led by Nand Kumar Malik Shehzad, Raja Ashar, Mufti M. Qasim Fakhri of TLP and Abdul Rasheed of MMA. 

The chief minister briefed the MPs about the cases, isolation wards established all over Sindh, number of patients diagnosed so far and people kept in quarantine. They gave different suggestions to the chief minister which he appreciated.