COVID-19 lockdown: Islamabad's empty streets say it all

Residents take social distancing seriously after imposition of Section 144

​ Our Correspondents March 23, 2020

ISLAMABAD / RAWALPINDI: With the number positive novel coronavirus (COVID-19) patients in the federal capital rising to 11 and the district administration banning public gathering by imposing Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and most major markets, shopping centres, public spots closed, the streets of the federal capital remained hauntingly empty on Sunday.

Even the markets, which were allowed to remain open because they sold essential goods, looked bereft of customers.

In the federal capital, which is busy on weekends, wore a desolated look. Recreational sites such as Shakarparian, National Monument, Marga lla Hills, etc looked deserted.

People are not even allowed to or roam around or loiter in the gardens of the Faisal Mosque. Those arriving to offer prayers were forced to leave once their religious obligation was complete.

Residents of Islamabad said that they have realised that the government alone cannot prevent the outbreak if people do not support it.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, local Ghulam Ali said that they fully support the measures announced by the government.

“We can only get rid of the virus through joint efforts,” he said, adding that most people are now avoiding venturing outside of their homes on the weekend.

Another resident, Musa, said that he prefers to stay at home instead of going out unnecessarily given the situation.

Askari, another resident of the federal capital, echoed the sentiments expressed by Ali and said that the government needs help from the public to arrest this pandemic.

Meanwhile, the police and district administration stringently enforced the ban on public gatherings and events in the twin cities.

In neighbouring Rawalpindi, some 27 people were arrested for allegedly operating tea shops and allowing the public to gather there. Some people, who attended a wedding ceremony despite the ban on such events, were also arrested.

In a crackdown, police arrested 16 shopkeepers from different areas of the Rawal and Potohar divisions for opening their stores while three people were arrested for hosting wedding ceremonies.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) has decided to ban the organization of cattle markets and weekly bazaars in and around the federal capital until further orders as part of its fight against the virus.

The ICTA has also banned public gatherings, wedding events, as well as on the assembly of more than four people. Restaurants and food outlets are operating as only take-away and delivery services while none of them is allowed to open their dining halls for serving the public.


Earlier on Saturday, some 13 members of the Tableeghi Jamaat were quarantined after one of them tested positive for COVID-19.

After quarantining the suspected patients, the district administration sprayed disinfectants in the mosque where the group had stayed and later sealed the facility.

The markets and shopping malls, except for those stores which sell groceries, dairy items, or other essential commodities were shut down at 10pm.


At least eight suspected patients of coronavirus were discharged from the Benazir Bhutto Hospital (BBH) in Rawalpindi on Sunday after they tested negative for the virus.

Among them were four from the family of Noor Zaib, who had tested positive for COVID-19. Zaib, meanwhile, remains under treatment at the Rawalpindi Institute of Urology and Kidney Transplant (RIUKT) — which has been converted into a dedicated centre to isolate and treat COVID-19 patients.

Meanwhile, three more patients from Rawalpindi were quarantined and their samples were sent to the National Institute of Health (NIH) for testing.

Minimum court staff

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has decided to reduce the number of staff who have to come to the courts in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A notification issued on Sunday read that “The courts, as well as all branches of the IHC and district courts, shall operate with minimum duty judges and staff on rotation”.

The notification further urged judges and court employees to take all possible precautionary measures to ensure their safety and those of others.


Published in The Express Tribune, March 23rd, 2020.

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