Provincial government announces restaurant, shopping mall, park, office closures to encourage social distancing
Having reported the most confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan so far, Sindh province on Tuesday announced stringent measures designed to curb the spread of the disease, including closing for 15 days all restaurants, shopping malls, food streets, public parks and government offices.
Overall, 235 cases of COVID-19 have been reported from across Pakistan, with Sindh reporting 172, a majority of whom are from among pilgrims returning from Iran who were released from quarantine at Taftan this week.
The decision to close public places in Sindh—in contrast to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s claims that a sustained lockdown would result in people dying of hunger—was made by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah at a meeting of the provincial Task Force on Coronavirus. Under the directives issued by the provincial government, restaurants would be allowed to offer home delivery service and grocery, dairy, meat and vegetable shops would also remain open as usual.
In another measure designed to reduce social co-mingling, the Sindh government has decided to close inter-city bus services from Friday, but intra-city services would still continue. Similarly, out patient departments of all hospitals would remain closed for 15 days, but the emergency facilities would remain unaffected.
Overall, Sindh had conducted 501 tests for the coronavirus, finding 38 patients, two of who have fully recovered. Of pilgrims returning from Taftan, 274 have been tested, and 134 found to be infected with coronavirus.
Chief Minister Shah also announced the establishment of a Coronavirus Relief Fund, with Rs. 3 billion in seed money, to which senior lawmakers and government employees have all committed to donating a month’s salary. This fund would be utilized to address the economic impacts of the sustained lockdown that Sindh is undertaking for the next two weeks.
Globally, over 7,900 have died of COVID-19, with more than 198,000 infected. The epicenter of the disease has shifted from China, where it originated late last year, to Europe, where it is currently prompting governments to initiate lockdowns in a bid to halt its spread. Pakistan has not yet confirmed any deaths from the disease, but the number of infected has been rising exponentially for a week, as tests find more and more patients.