–Shah says there’s lack of coordination between federal and provincial govts over eradication of Covid-19
KARACHI: Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah on Monday said that there was a lack of coordination between the federal government and the provinces with regard to the eradication of the coronavirus which has affected some 5,424 people across the country.
Addressing a press conference in Karachi, Murad said, “I want to say this very clearly — the [coronavirus] pandemic is not a provincial or a personal matter. We cannot make decisions in isolation because their consequences affect everybody.”
The chief minister lamented that despite his repeated warnings, there has been a lot of back and forth from the Centre on how to effectively tackle the epidemic.
“Mixed signals being given by the Centre have rendered the provincial lockdown ineffective,” he said.
The presser was held hours ahead of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) meeting, to be chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan, to take policy decisions for containment measures post-April 14.
Shah maintained that the only way to effectively deal with the pandemic was to learn from the experiences of other countries around the world.
“That’s what we did in Sindh, and we have been blamed for enforcing a lockdown without giving it much prior thought. There is no correct way to tackle the pandemic. But, the only way to do so is by taking action,” he said.
Shah was addressing rifts between the federal and Sindh governments which came to the fore a day earlier after Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda had accused the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government of being “inefficient” and failing to contain the spread of the virus.
“Because of the Sindh government’s incompetence, the number of cases is rising,” Vawda had said.
Shortly after, Sindh Information Minister Nasir Shah and Education Minister Saeed Ghani had held a press conference in which they had defended measures taken by the provincial government and called out the federal government for “lack of cooperation”.
“We will make mistakes [in the fight against the pandemic] but the biggest mistake is to not take any action at all,” Murad said in today’s press conference.
The chief minister added that he had tried to sound an alarm about the situation potentially worsening exponentially early on during the very first NCC meeting.
“I had said that we needed to go towards a planned lockdown. It is possible that my advice would have been impractical at the time, but in hindsight, if we had done so, we would not have been in this situation right now.”
He added that he was thankful to the rest of the provinces that followed in Sindh’s footsteps, and enforcing a lockdown.
NO SUPPORT FROM FEDERAL INSTITUTIONS:
Shah went on to criticise the federal government’s cash disbursement programme.
The Sindh government had also thought about an effective way to distribute ration, but we had realised that delivering it to people’s houses was the only way, he said. “The problem we had encountered was that we required data from institutions such as the National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) to roll this initiative out.”
By this time, the federal government had introduced their programme and we supported it wholeheartedly, he said. But we told them that the manner of distributing the cash was not appropriate, he stated.
“We enforced a lockdown to stop people from gathering in an effort to avoid transmission of the disease but people gathered in large crowds to receive the cash handout.”
“I am tired of repeating this. The pandemic has affected economies around the world, but nothing is more important than people’s lives,” he said.
“You can revive a lifeless economy but you cannot bring back the dead,” he said. The chief minister added that if the coronavirus were to spread to rural areas, there will be no way to stem the spread.
FEDERAL ASSISTANCE NOT ENOUGH:
Shah went on to say that the details of all contributions made to the provincial coronavirus emergency fund were available on the financial department’s website.
“Our MPAs contributed their salaries towards this fund, and I am thankful to them for doing so,” he said. All of the money spent has been put towards the field hospital at the Expo Centre, he added.
However, we are unable to procure items, Shah said. “We have asked for help from the federal government in this regard, the federal government is in a better position to bring in ventilators and personal protective equipment.”
“We are grateful for what they have done so far, but they have done very little,” he said. Provincial governments can only do so much, all points lead back to the Centre, he said.
“If a provincial government can arrange 10,000 testing kits from day one, and an additional 50,000 after that, then we expect more from the federal government,” he added.
NATIONAL STRATEGY NEEDED:
Shah added that the provincial government was carrying out targeted testing for coronavirus which has allowed them to effectively manage the outbreak.
“During a meeting two days ago, the World Health Organisation said that Sindh is the only province that is carrying out testing according to the guidelines issued by them,” he said.
He added that at least 90 per cent of the Covid-19 tests in the province were conducted free-of-charge.
The chief minister also took the opportunity to tell Prime Minister Imran Khan to form a comprehensive national policy with regards to the outbreak.
“We need a national narrative or a national action plan regarding this,” he said. “We became one on the fight against terrorism after the Army Public School (APS) attack. Are we still waiting for the same,” he asked.
“We want PM Imran to lead. Do not allow for the lockdown to be compromised in any scenario. Do not say that provinces are free to decide, that will be more painful,” he concluded.