FAISALABAD: Because of closure of public parks to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, a large number of citizens are seen sitting on green belts early in the morning to spend time in fresh air.
In compliance with the directives of the government to impose lockdown, the Faisalabad Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) closed down 336 parks across the city on March 22. The PHA maintains only 105 of the 336 parks due to lack of funds and decrease in commercial advertisement fee.
Owing to the closure of the parks, residents of Faisalabad, especially senior citizens, are deprived of the few leisure activities available to them. A number of them can be seen roaming around the Jinah Park near district courts. On seeing the main gate of the park closed, the visitors often sit together on green belts, roundabouts and road medians and indulge in gossips. Most of them express anger against the lockdown.
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Abdul Kareem, a retired professor in his 70's, told The Express Tribune that the citizens appreciate the decision of closure of parks and other recreational places to avert the great risk of coronavirus pandemic, but it would have been better if the government had framed standard operating procedures for the parks' visitors. He said tracks should be marked so that visitors could walk while maintaining social distancing.
He said shifts and zones should have been introduced by the authority for children, youth, male and female visitors to enjoy the facilities during different timings and avoid crowding.
Muneer Ahmad, a young enterpreneur, criticised the PHA for not providing alternative recreational opportunities to the citizens. If the government can ease the lockdown for various sectors of the economy then why does it not give relaxation for the parks in view of their role in public health, he asked.
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Fazal Bibi, a housewife sitting along with other old women on the green belt of Jail Road, said she used to visit the Jinnah Park 2km away from her house. When the park was closed, she started sitting on the green belt along the road amid pollution and noise caused by traffic.
PHA Horticulture Director Abdullah Nisar Cheema said the authority had shut the parks on the government's instructions and was aware of the problems of the citizens. As soon as the government eases the lockdown, all the parks will be opened for the general public, he added.
Commenting on the issue, Dr Tariq Ali, a psychologist at the Allied Hospital, said the people were already facing the fear of the invisible novel and the closing down the parks had increased their anxiety. He said lack of recreation amid the fear had affected people's behaviour, job performance and sleep.
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He said the number of patients of anxiety has increased manifold, further burdening the weak healthcare system. He said health professionals are bearing the brunt of the situation. To avoid psychological disorders, people should keep exercising in there homes, he said. The doctor suggested that the authorities should allow entry into parks while ensuring social distancing and multiple jogging tracks and entry and exit points.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 5th, 2020.