Shoppers flock in as markets reopen

Some follow SOPs while others ignore them


​ Our Correspondents May 12, 2020
PHOTO: ReUTERS/FILE

RAWALPINDI/ ISLAMABAD: Markets in the twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi showed some of their old hustle and bustle with people flocking to shop as the government relaxed a lockdown after nearly 50 days. The lockdown had been imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

The government had allowed small businesses including electric, plumbing, paint, clothing, shoes and other stores and kiosks selling accessories to reopen.

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In Islamabad, people were seen visiting small markets while following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the district administration.

"Shopping activity is expected to reach its peak in the last ten days of Ramazan,” said a shopkeeper, adding that they were strictly following the SOPs.

Moreover, the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) Deputy Commissioner Hamza Shafqaat held another meeting with traders of the federal capital. Traders’ associations and market unions were told to ensure that the SOPs are implemented. Furthermore, they were told that members of the Tiger Force will also be used to inspect and assist the enforcement of social distancing SOPs.

In case of violations, traders agreed to take strict action against violators, including the sealing of shops.

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Traders have been told to ensure that everyone wears a mask inside stores while sanitisers are available. All staff have to have their temperature checked and if they are showing any other symptoms. Moreover, only one person is allowed every six feet.

In Rawalpindi, many families were seen shopping for the children but not all observed the SOPs. Many people looked more concerned about getting the items they needed without caring about its quality.

“We do not know when the government hardens the lockdown again,” said Erum Begum, an elderly shopper, adding that they are trying to make the most of the lockdown being relaxed.

With Eid being so close and people fearing that markets may close once more with a spike in novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases, shopkeepers claimed to have made record sales on reopening day.

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Traders Sheikh Nadeem and Chaudhry Shiraz said that they had made up for their loss in a single day.

“Our sales were 500% more than a usual Ramzan season day,” they said.

However, shoppers completely disregarded the precautionary SOPs. The social distancing rule was largely flouted as shopkeepers failed to abide by the guidelines, including marking circles for shoppers.

The marketplaces were also crammed with shoppers and traders with few people seen wearing gloves or facemasks. 

Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2020.

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