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Sindh Wants National Unity on Lockdowns

by Newsweek Pakistan

In media interaction, C.M. Murad Ali Shah says provincial lockdowns should be extended by one week

The Sindh government on Thursday said it wanted the entire country to take a united stance on the ongoing national lockdowns, as Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that it would be best to extend them by a week to April 21.

Speaking to senior journalists in Karachi, Shah said the final decision on whether or not to extend the lockdown would be taken by the Sindh cabinet. “We are preparing standard operating procedures for everything, including industries and factories,” he said, adding that the lockdown would end in a phased manner, and everything would not be allowed to resume operations immediately.

“If factories are opened, minimum number of employees will work in them,” he said, adding that shopping malls would remain closed in the near future. The business community is pressuring the government to resume economic activity, but small traders have supported the lockdown measures, he added.

Referring to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s desire to resume construction operations across the country from April 14, Shah warned that this would certainly aid in the spread of the coronavirus. “If the federal government extends the lockdown for an additional week, the situation can be brought under control,” he said.

The chief minister also expressed concerns that the virus could spread during the distribution of rations, as thousands were assembling at designated places to receive them. “We have reservations with the federal government over several issues,” he said.

The Sindh government’s reservations with ending the lockdowns from next week come amid increasing calls from the federal government to restore normal operations nationwide, with a particular focus on the construction sector and export-oriented industries.

Earlier on Thursday, PTI leaders in Sindh urged the provincial government to ease the lockdown and announce its post-lockdown strategy.

Nationally, Pakistan now has 4,601 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 2,279 in Punjab and 1,128 in Sindh. Experts believe these numbers are likely far less than the actual infections as Pakistan’s testing capacity remains severely limited with only 54,706 tests administered nationwide in a nation of 220 million.

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