Sindh govt issues fresh COVID-19 rules as cases surge

KARACHI: In view of surging COVID-19 cases across the province, the Sindh government on Sunday issued a revised set of safety rules in order to control the rapid spread of the virus.

With stress on implementation of all essential and general preventive steps, the Provincial Home Department issued a notification that underscores the precautionary measures to be followed at workplaces, public places, and during traveling, especially when using public transportation.

According to the Home Department, a meeting of the provincial task force on coronavirus was held today, in which a rise in positivity was observed throughout the province, especially in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur.

“The Task Force discussed various ways and means to contain the disease. It was reiterated that compliance of the SOPs (standard operating procedures) for Covid continues to remain a cornerstone measure for control of disease spread,” said the statement.

“The Task Force also decided to issue strict warnings and advice for the public to strictly follow SOPs on Covid control with the warning that if the cases rise, the closure of many activities may have to be undertaken, especially in areas with high positivity,” it added.

The following changes were announced following the meeting:

  • Business hours will now be from 5 am to 6 pm, except for essential services.
  • Bakeries and milk shops are allowed to operate till midnight.
  • Pharmacies inside shopping malls will close at 6 pm, along with other shops.
  • Fridays and Sundays to be off days for businesses, except for Hyderabad, where Fridays and Saturdays will be the designated off days.
  • All outdoor and indoor dining is henceforth barred; takeaway, drive-through and delivery services to continue.
  • Public transport — inter-city, intra-city and inter-provincial — allowed with 50% occupancy, strict observance of SOPs.

Places/activities still closed

Medical experts suggested continued restrictions on some places and activities in view of the rising number of cases. These are:

  • Marriage halls, business centers, expo halls.
  • Contact sports, indoor gyms, sports facilities, sporting tournaments — indoor and outdoor.
  • Theme parks, amusement parks, arcades for video games, carrom/dabble playing areas.
  • Tourist spots such as Keenjhar Lake and Lab-e-Mehran, picnic spots, all beaches, and recreational parks.
  • Beauty parlors.
  • Clinics.
  • Cinemas and theatres.
  • Shrines.
  • All types of indoor and outdoor religious, cultural, musical social gatherings

Educational institutes

All educational institutes will remain closed for two more weeks or until the situation improves, positivity ratios decrease, or until a further review by the task force.

Factories/industries/markets

The owners of all factories and markets have to ensure their employees have a properly ventilated space, observe distancing and have access to washing areas. No extra people must be present inside the working area.

Workers must travel with strict SOP compliance in public transport, or dedicated transport must be provided to them.

Special focus areas

Special focus areas identified by the forum were Karachi (District East and South), Hyderabad (Qasimabad, Latifabad, and Taluka Hyderabad City) and Sukkur.

Commissioners in these areas were tasked with identifying hotspots and take the following measures:

1-Stop unnecessary movement while ensuring access to essential services. 2-Stricter measures to ensure SOP compliance. 3-Public awareness through local leaders, influential persons.

Earlier the day, the Sindh government today (Sunday) announced a new set of restrictions aimed at mitigating the increase in COVID-19 cases across the province.

 Addressing a press conference, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah announced that all educational institutions, from nursery to universities, across the province will remain closed until the coronavirus situation improves.

Murad Ali Shah pointed out that the COVID-19 positivity rate in Karachi has climbed above 13 percent during the Eid-ul-Fitr holidays. “On the first day of Shawal, 831 coronavirus cases were reported,” he added,

Giving further details regarding COVID-19 cases, the chief minister asserted that over 2,000 cases were reported in Sindh on Friday. “This is a 30% increase in the number of cases,” he said, citing violation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) as the reason behind the surge.

“At this point in time we can’t afford any relaxations,” he pointed out, adding. “This is the time of caution and we will take difficult decisions if we have to.”