Minister rules out lockdown despite surge in coronavirus cases
KARACHI – While ruling out lockdown like restrictions amid growing cases of Covid-19 in Karachi, health authorities on Wednesday hinted at return of certain protocols and curbs in ‘all indoor spaces’, including wearing face masks and social distancing measures.
The deliberations were made at a meeting of senior officials chaired by Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, who called for raising awareness regarding the importance of wearing face masks, getting the Covid-19 vaccines booster shot four months after the previous shot and practicing social distancing.
“The city cannot be forced to go under another lockdown, which is why it is highly necessary that community at large understands the importance of Covid SOPs and follows them,” a statement issued after the meeting quoted the health minister as saying.
“The masks must be made mandatory for all indoor spaces, especially cinemas and the like so that there is not any more increase in infection. People are not taking precautions that they used to take which is another reason the cases of Covid-19 [cases] are increasing.”
She also hinted at higher number of cases than being documented suspecting that there was also a significant portion of the population who were using at-home antigen tests and isolating without informing healthcare workers.
“Even though many people think that vaccines provide little resistance to new variants, they do provide some protection,” she said. The meeting which was also attended by director EPI Dr Irshad Memon and Covid-19 focal person Dr Sohail Shiekh was informed that out of 51 million population of Sindh, 34.27m were eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine (i.e. over 12 years of age).
So far, 34.7m of the target population has been vaccinated and currently the booster dose is being administered, the meeting was told. The health minister was of the view that the people must be made aware of the importance of the booster dose and should voluntarily come to the vaccination sites in the province. However, she also added that those who were unable to do so would be given the vaccine at their home.
“For these situations there must be a helpline where people who are self-isolating can let the health department know that they have Covid and are isolating so that there is a record of all cases of infection,” she added. “Just because the symptoms of Covid infections are mild does not mean that the after effects of long Covid-19 should be ignored. After effects of Covid-19 have not been extensively researched and many experts believe that long Covid can target the immune system, internal organs and neurological functions in otherwise healthy individuals.”
Meanwhile, the provincial administration in a fresh move has made wearing masks at the Sindh Secretariat mandatory “in view of the recent exponential surge in the Covid-19 related positive cases and in order to prevent its spread”.
“All the officers and officials of Sindh Secretariat have been directed to ensure wearing of masks, while the visitors shall be mandatorily required to wear masks within the Sindh Secretariat premises,” said a statement issued by Sindh chief secretary office and added that the Administrative Secretaries of all the departments would also ensure the compliance with the standard operating procedure in letter and spirit.