Sindh govt freezes development funds to boost war on coronavirus
A healthcare official scans people for coronavirus in Pakistan.–File photo
The Sindh government on Friday decided to freeze funds for all development projects keeping in view its financial problems caused by the coronavirus outbreak in the province.
According to the decision, funds for all new and ongoing development projects would be frozen and no funds would be released for development in the third quarter of the ongoing financial year. The government has directed the finance ministry to release funds only for extremely important purposes.
The provincial government had allocated Rs208 billion for 2,705 development projects, which had to be completed in financial year 2019-2020. However, the provincial government has already released 30 percent of the development budget for the duration of December to February.
As far as coronavirus outbreak in the country is concerned, Sindh is the worst-hit province with 249 cases confirmed as of March 20. On Friday, coronavirus was confirmed in another 11 people in Karachi, taking the number of patients in Sindh to 249 and nationwide 481.
Also, the situation was deteriorating elsewhere in the country. In Punjab, confirmation of coronavirus in another 18 people on Friday evening took the tally to 96. In the federal capital, the number of confirmed coronavirus increased from 7 to 10 on Friday. However, no new virus case surfaced in Balochistan (81 cases), Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (23 cases), Gilgit-Baltistan (21 cases) and Azad Kashmir (one case) on Friday.
In a related development, coronavirus caused the first death in Karachi on Friday, taking the toll to three across Pakistan, before the Sindh government announced a three-day lockdown in the province, telling people to live in isolation at their homes. Explaining the lockdown order, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said it wasn’t a lockdown in real sense of the term; it was just an appeal to people to stay indoors voluntarily to stop spread of the virus.
The Sindh chief minister chaired a meeting of the provincial taskforce on Friday where civil and military officials were in attendance. They discussed measures to control the deteriorating situation in the wake of increasing infections in the province.
On the other hand, the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) decided on Friday to convert the 250-bed Landhi Hospital and the airport hotel into quarantine centres keeping in view the possibility of an increase in the number of coronavirus patients in Karachi in the coming days.