KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Monday defended the PPP government’s decision to impose a lockdown in the province in a bid to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“We took the extreme step after reviewing and observing what other countries were doing to curb the spread of the virus,” Shah said while addressing a press conference.
Speaking about the growing number of cases in the province, Shah said the province had recorded one more death, taking the provincial tally to 31.
“We have recorded 41 new cases, while 30 patients have recovered in the last 24 hours and been sent home. Overall, 419 patients have recovered from the virus in the province, while 317 people are in hospitals and 37 in quarantine centres at the moment,” he informed.
“This is not a provincial or state-level crisis. Right now, the entire world is gripped by it. We consulted global experts to tackle the situation,” he said.
“We decided on making a quick decision about the lockdown,” he said.
“When the first case emerged on February 26, we held a comprehensive meeting the very next day. The meeting was not only attended by people from the government, but also representatives from the private sector.”
“We gradually closed shopping centres, parks, cinemas, etc to avoid panic in the city. We all will make mistakes, but the biggest mistake of all would have been not taking measures at the moment,” he remarked.
The chief minister shared that he put Sindh’s concerns about the surge in cases in front of the federal government during the first meeting of the National Coordination Committee.
“I had highly recommended a complete lockdown in the country, but my advice was ignored back then,” Shah said.
“On April 1, the federal government had recommended extending the lockdown since it had helped us in controlling the situation. Following the meeting, the federal minister [Asad Umar] announced the extension of the lockdown, which made me happy that our suggestions were being considered.
“But the very next day, it was decided to ease the lockdown for industry in different provinces. They said it is up to each province to decide how to handle the situation,” he recalled.
‘Federal govt should lead from the front’
The chief minister added that the federal government should lead from the front rather than leaving decision-making to the provincial governments.
On the subject of cash disbursement, Shah said the process was not effective. “Cash disbursement programs were conducted to avoid social interactions and crowds; however, at the end of the day, people ended up gathering in crowds to receive the funds,” he noted.
What was the purpose of lockdown if people gathered in huge crowds anyway, Shah asked.
“I agree that our economy has suffered the most due to the pandemic, but nothing is more important than human lives at the end of the day,” he remarked.
“Accusations are surfacing that while the PPP claims that they have distributed rations among the needy, there is no proof of them doing so. Nasir Shah and other provincial ministers have ensured that ration bags are delivered at home to the needy without inconvenience. Our target is to avoid crowds and practice social distancing.”
“If the virus reaches rural areas, we may not be able to stem the spread since there are meager resources and illiteracy in those areas, which will add to the challenges we face currently, he added.
‘Have repeatedly informed federal govt about lack of resources’
Dismissing the criticism against his government, Shah said the province had not taken anything from the coronavirus relief fund.
“We generated our own funds. The data is available on the website, with details of donors. We have collected funds from our workers, who willingly contributed,” he remarked.
“Despite the fund generation, however, we do not have medical supplies. We have constantly informed the federal government about the lack of resources. We expect the centre to facilitate us,” Shah said.
‘Conducting tests according to scientific methods’
The chief minister further claimed that the province was conducting targeted testing ‘according to scientific methods’.
“WHO officials informed me in our last meeting that only Sindh was following scientific methods to conduct coronavirus testing,” he claimed, adding that around 90% of the tests conducted in the province were done for free.
The chief minister finished with an appeal to authorities to proceed with a united front and formulate an effective and doable work plan for the future.
“We want the prime minister to lead in this time of crisis,” he said. “I also want to pay my deepest regards to our frontline soldiers – the doctors and paramedics – for dealing with the situation and battling on the frontlines with valour and courage.”