Countering COVID-19 through smart lockdown, a way forward

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Fakhar Alam

PESHAWAR Jun 21 (APP):The massive surge in coronavirus cases in Pakistan where 157,738 cases, including 19,613 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) reported till date, has forced the government to impose smart lockdowns in COVID-19 hotspot areas to counter spread of the viral infection.

Following the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan, the KP Government has started smart lockdowns in high risk areas of Peshawar, Khyber, Lower Dir, Chitral, Haripur, Mansehra, Mardan, Swabi, Bannu, Dera Ismail Khan, Hangu, Nowshera, Orakzai, Bajaur and Malakand to protect the people from stings of coronavirus.

Some 375 deaths out of total 755 in the KP have occurred in Peshawar due to the coronavirus till June 18, have necessitated to put its virus prone areas of Interior Aasia Gate, Kohat Road, Ramadas bazaar, Circular Road, Bairsako, Sardshah Gate, Namak Mandai, Dabgari Road, Ring Road, Joye Sheikh Kanal, Union Council Aasia, Shinwari Town, Malik Tariq Road, Sector F-3 Phase VI Hayatabad, Gulbahar No IV and Koi Hasankhel, under the smart lockdown.

Latifur Rehman, Spokesman of the Relief and Resettlement Department KP, told APP that smart lockdowns had been enforced in COVID-19 hotspots and cluster areas of the province, including Peshawar that would continue for 14 days under strict security arrangements of police and district administration.

“The lockdowns could be extended if God forbid the situation got worse,” he added.

The spokesman said, “Except shops of edible items, medicine, general stores, tandoors and emergency services, all other business units will remain closed and only five persons will be allowed for prayers in mosques in these selected areas,” he said.

He said directives were issued to area magistrates and police authorities for strict implementation of the lockdown and action against violators under the relevant laws without political affiliations.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal along with KP Chief Secretary Dr Kazim Niaz, Deputy Commissioner Peshawar Muhammed Ali Asghar and the SSP Operations visited the smart lockdown areas in Peshawar on June 16 where they inspected security, food and other arrangements.

Several high risk zones in Mardan district, where the country’s first death was reported due to the coronavirus at Manga village in March, were sealed and the movement of people was restricted.

The Deputy Comissioner Mardan office spokesman said smart lockdowns had been enforced in Bejligar near Dosra Chowk, Janabad, Sheikh Maltoon Sector A, Daman-e-Koh Mazdoodabad Road and Tehsil Road Katlung Bazaar, which would continue till July 1.  “These hotspot areas were sealed after a spike in COVID-19 cases where unnecessary movement of residents was banned,” he maintained.

In Nowshera district, smart lockdowns were imposed in Shahgul Baba Arat Nowshera Kalan, Azakhel Payan, Hakeemabad, BHU Wazir Ghari, Sadri Khel Pirpai, House No 276 AC Colony, Qasimi village, ASC Colony D Block, Armour Ccolony, Yaqoob Ghari Jalozai, Dak Ismail Khel, Akbarpura, Shadman Colony and Station Road.

Kohi Bagh in Hangu district and Dagar Shiekhaan in Orakzai tribal district were also sealed after a couple (husband along with his wife) died and contraction of the virus by their nine other family members in Sheikhan village.

In Bajaur, the smart lockdown was imposed in Mirali Qilla, Koz Sirchum, Campshah Anis Khan and Inayat Kalli, with the directives to the residents to stay at homes.

In Malakand district, initially 11 union councils namely Thana Khas, Thana Jadeed, Thana Bandajot, Upper Batkhela, Lower Batkhela, Middle Batkhela, Dheri Alladhand, Totakan, Khar and Dheri Julagram were put under smart lockdown.

Similarly in Swabi district, lockdowns at Shamshakhel, Batakai Topi, Zanikhel Dagai and Dhund Chum were enforced for the next 14 days on the orders of the Deputy Commissioner.

A report of the Provincial Management Unit (PMU), KP Chief Secretary Office, has revealed widespread actions against violators of standard operating procedures (SOPs).  Some 307,649 raids were conducted across the province between June 3-17, with warning issued to 78,932 persons, over Rs15.888 million fine imposed and 6,049 business units sealed.

As many as 5,737 raids were conducted in Peshawar where warnings were issued to 1,764 people and Rs 359,512 fine imposed on 638 business units, besides sealing of 205 outlets on violation of SOPs on June 17.

In Hazara division, 3,982 raids were conducted with strict warning issued to 1,127 business units, Rs 1,79,200 fine imposed on 339 shops and 12 others sealed.

About 1,860 raids were conducted in Kohat division where warnings to 301 business units were issued and 36 shops fined for Rs 36,900, and seven others sealed.

In Malakand division, 5,978 raids were conducted with warning to 1, 271 units, Rs 1,36,300 fine on 101 shops and sealing of seven units. Likewise in Mardan division, 1,618 raids were conducted with imposition of Rs 94, 700 fine on 86 units and 10 shops sealed.

As many as 1,510 raids were carried out in Bannu division with warning to 351 units, Rs 30,300 fine on 24 shops and 22 units sealed on violation of SOPs. Similarly, a total of 589 raids were conducted in DI Khan division out of which 234 units owners were warned and Rs 8,500 fine was imposed.

Mohibullah Khan, Provincial Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, told APP that the government was fighting on two fronts to protect the people from the fatal coronavirus as well as from hunger and starvation.

He said smart lockdowns were imposed in the areas where the ratio of COVID-19 cases was high, and the decision to the effect was taken during a recent meeting of the provincial task force with Chief Minister Mahmood Khan in chair.

The meeting decided to go all out for smart lockdowns in high risk areas after reviewing arrangements regarding containment of the coronavirus and implementation the SOPs across the province.

Mohibullah Khan said the corona hotspots and clusters areas had been identified in all the districts where smart lockdowns were being enforced in a phased manner and implementation of the SOPs were being monitored at district, tehsil and union council levels.

“The country cannot afford the complete lockdown due to difficult economic situation and areas with a high number of cases are being sealed,” he maintained.