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Sindh Advised to Extend Lockdown by Chinese Experts

by Newsweek Pakistan

Visiting Chinese delegation informs provincial government eight-week lockdown is crucial to halting spread of coronavirus

After advising the Punjab government over the weekend to extend its lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, a visiting delegation of Chinese experts on Tuesday urged the Sindh government to do likewise, saying an eight-week lockdown was crucial in the fight against the disease.

The Sindh government’s three-week province-wide lockdown is set to end on April 14, as is the one imposed by Punjab and the federal government. Under the presently imposed restrictions, most public and private offices, schools, mosques and madrassas are closed. There is also a ban on large gatherings, both public and private, and a halt on all manners of public transport.

On Sunday, a visiting delegation of Chinese experts urged Punjab province to extend its lockdown to at least 28 days, adding that any decision to end the movement restrictions should only be taken in view of the rate at which the coronavirus was spreading.

On Tuesday, during a meeting with Sindh Health Minister Dr. Azra Pechuho, experts from China said the existing lockdown should be extended. This suggestion was then echoed during a meeting between CEOs of leading hospitals and prominent doctors and Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.

The Chinese experts said an eight-week lockdown was crucial to halt the spread of COVID-19. They appreciated the steps taken by the province thus far in managing the virus, but said social distancing remained key to stopping it from spreading further and this was only possible through government-enforced lockdowns. “For effective results, it’s crucial to extend the lockdown. In many areas of China, the lockdown continued for two months which proved fruitful,” said the Chinese experts.

Reportedly, the Sindh chief minister has said he would consult all stakeholders about whether or not the province should extend its lockdown beyond April 14. However, also on Tuesday, Sindh minister Saeed Ghani said the province would likely allow exemptions to the lockdowns from next week to help the economy recover from the impacts of the mass closures

During the meeting between the C.M. and hospital CEOs and doctors, the healthcare professionals also warned that ending the lockdown now could cause the virus to spread like wildfire. They said a large population of provincial capital Karachi comprised slum dwellers who lived in small, cramped houses with large families and primarily used public transport. Ending the lockdown would result in these crowds gathering en masse, which could infect whole neighborhoods within days, the warned.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Pakistan hit 4,081 on Wednesday morning, a mere three days after the country reported its 3,000th patient. Punjab is currently leading in both number of tests administered and cases found with 2,030 patients. Sindh, meanwhile, has tested less than half of Punjab’s numbers and has thus far reported 986 cases.

Prime Minister Imran Khan has repeatedly voiced his displeasure at lockdowns, claiming it would cause more people to die of hunger than would die of the coronavirus.

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