KARACHI/LAHORE  - As confirmed coronavirus cases exceed 200 in the country, authorities ordered comprehensive restrictions to control the spread of the virus.

The Sindh government on Tuesday ordered a partial lockdown in the province. Shopping malls, restaurants, government offices, parks, and inter-city bus services will be closed within the next 48 hours and will stay closed for at least 15 days amid fears that delayed action could lead to uncontrolled spread.

In Punjab, Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid confirmed six coronavirus cases and said that at least 736 people are in isolation centers at Dera Ghazi Khan. In a later tweet Chief Minister of Punjab Usman Buzdar announced that the number of confirmed cases has risen to eight.

The decision to further restrict services was taken during a task force meeting chaired by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, which included a diverse set of stakeholders. The meeting was attended by provincial ministers, Chief Secretary, Sindh IG, provincial secretaries, Karachi Commissioner, representatives of 5th Corps  and Rangers, FIA, airport authorities, Civil Aviation Authority, WHO, Aga Khan Hospital, and Indus hospital.  Representatives from the civil society, such as Mushtaq Chapra, Faisal Edhi, and Shahzad Roy also attended the meeting.

“If we fail to take strict measures in time it is bound to affect the entire province,” the CM said while announcing the closure of public spaces and landmarks.

At least 736 people are in isolation centers at Dera Ghazi Khan

However, grocery, milk, meat and vegetables shops/stalls would remain open as usual, and if they want they can operate round the clock, the chief minister added.

Shah also said that all government offices, except essential services such as health, local government, water board etc. would observe working days as usual from Thursday. The chief secretary would issue a clear notification.

“There are two days for the visitors to return their respective homes/cities and after that all the inter-city buses would be stopped from plying on their routes,” he said. However, intra-city bus service would continue as usual.

Hospitals would continue functioning as usual and will keep their emergency wards open round the clock. However, their OPDS would remain closed for 15 days.

The chief minister decided that restaurants would not be allowed to offer dining services, however they can continue their home delivery services. Dining facilities would also remain suspended for 15 days in all star hotels and clubs but they would keep their room services open as usual.

Similarly, Punjab health minister Dr Yasmin while speaking at a news conference in Lahore also advised people to stay indoors as coronavirus is a viral disease.

 

Dr Yasmin Rashid also confirmed that there were six coronavirus patients in the province, including five in Dera Ghazi Khan and one in Lahore. A suspected patient from Mandi Bahauddin passed away on Tuesday. She said his test for the virus is in process.

 

She made this announcement while addressing a news conference with Punjab Information Minister Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan. She said five out of the first group of 42 pilgrims, who had returned from Iran, were confirmed as Covid-19 patients in Dera Ghazi Khan and one in Lahore.

 

Some 736 pilgrims were being kept in the DG Khan quarantine centre. Meanwhile a group of pilgrims from Iran would reach Bahawalpur soon, where a quarantine centre for 1200 people has been established, another group would be kept in Multan. She added that complete safety of the doctors and paramedical staff performing duties at isolation wards, quarantine centers and airports was also being ensured.

 

Dr Yasmin advised the people to adopt precautionary measures, stay at homes and avoid unnecessary travelling. She said the Tayyip Erdogan Hospital Muzaffargarh, Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute Lahore, Urology Hospital Rawalpindi and Civil Hospital Bahawalpur had been designated for coronavirus treatment, while one hospital in every division of the province would be made a quarantine centre. She revealed that Punjab at present has 1,250 ventilators, while 1,000 more were being purchased, asserting that every patient would not necessarily be put on ventilator.

 

To a question, she said the government was not concealing the details about the coronavirus patients and it would update the masses about their number, sometimes twice a day.

 

To another query, the Health Minister said it was unjustified for young doctors to go on strike, especially at time when their services were needed to cope with the coronavirus. Fayyaz-ul-Hassan Chohan said the Punjab government had taken effective measures to curb the spread of coronavirus. He asked the traders not to hoard sanitizers, face masks and other direly needed items, and warned them of strict action if found indulged in the malpractice.