KARACHI: The Sindh government and health experts explored on Saturday the possibility of reopening all businesses, including eateries, as well as educational institutes across Sindh from September 15, in light of the decisions made during a recent National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting and an apparent decline in Covid-19 cases.
Addressing a provincial coronavirus taskforce meeting, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said that a final decision would only be made after authorities reassessed the situation in the first week of September.
“After a Council of Common Interests (CCI) meeting, Prime Minister Imran Khan had chaired an NCC meeting on August 6 in Islamabad, where it was decided that all businesses, including educational institutes, would reopen from September 15,” he said, adding that the provinces had agreed to reach a final decision on the matter after reviewing the pandemic situation in taskforce meetings.
The CM then sought the opinion of health experts on resuming commercial, educational and social activities, at which the latter proposed that they could be resumed in line with coronavirus-related standard operating procedures (SOPs).
At this, he decided to call another meeting in the first week of September to review the situation, deliberate on the matter and reach a final decision.
“Once we decide to allow the reopening of businesses, the home department will issue a notification in this regard and outline the SOPs for business operations,” he elaborated.
Mulling these guidelines, CM Shah said that if and when business activities resumed in the province, they were to be wound up by 9pm, adding that restaurants, however, could operate until 10pm.
“The timings [for restaurants] may be enhanced on weekends,” he added, stressing that people needed to now work on changing their behaviour and habits to cope with the pandemic. “We need to start our day early and end it latest by 10pm,” the CM urged the public.
Besides, the CM asked Sindh Health Minister Dr Azra Fazl Pechuho to assess whether the field isolation facility at the Expo Centre in Karachi was still required to treat coronavirus patients.
“If you want continue with the facility, go ahead. Otherwise close it down and shift the equipment to other healthcare facilities,” he said.
However, he stated that the Covid-19 hospitals at NIPA and University Road would continue to function and facilities there would be boosted.
The decisions came in the wake of Dr Pechucho telling the meeting that the pandemic situation had been encouraging in the recent days. The number of new infections is on the decline, she said.
In response to this information, the CM noted that a consistent decline in the emergence of new Covid-19 cases was observed over the past 30 days.
“On July 8, 1,782 new cases were reported and the number continued to decrease, going down to 487 on August 7,” he said, while cautioning that this did not mean the pandemic had ended. “But it shows we have to learn to live with the virus until a vaccine is developed.”