LAHORE: Despite bleak statistics, Punjab government has decided to keep businesses and markets open for five days a week from 9am to 7pm across the province as per the decision of the National Coordination Committee (NCC) on Monday.
It said the decision was made as per the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan to safeguard daily wage earners who were already facing severe hardships owing to prolonged lockdown in the country.
While keeping the lockdown restrictions relaxed, the government has also directed the authorities concerned to ensure strict compliance with the standard operating procedures (SOPs) in the province to rein in the exponential spread of coronavirus.
Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar directed the authorities to ensure strict implementation of the safety guidelines in markets and other commercial areas. He also instructed officials concerned to monitor implementation of the SOPs at other places.
The chief minister appealed to citizens to cooperate with the government by observing the safety SOPs.
He underlined that continuation of employment opportunities is essential along with observance of the SOPs and everyone will have to exhibit a socially responsible behaviour. He asked traders to follow the instructions issued by the authorities, adding that the government is committed to taking steps for the treatment of the patients. Following social distancing policy will ensure protection from the disease, he maintained. The chief minister said the government has allowed business activities while realising the economic difficulties of the common people.
“Public cooperation is imperative to stop the spread of coronavirus and people will have to be more cautious because they can remain safe from this virus by following the necessary precautions,” the chief minister said. Meanwhile, Punjab Governor Chaudhry Muhammad Sarwar underlined that it is not possible to make people observe the safety SOPs in letter and spirit voluntarily. “The state will have to enforce its writ if we want people to strictly follow the safety SOPs.”
An official of the provincial government highlighted that the government is also considering a proposal to take trade associations on board for strict implementation of the safety SOPs in commercial areas, otherwise it would be really difficult for the government to arrest the spread of the disease.
He also highlighted that deliberations are underway with different trade associations to help he authorities in enforcing coronavirus SOPs in letter and spirit.
The Punjab Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department had reportedly warned Chief Minister Sardar Usman through an official communiqué in on May 15 that estimates suggested that nearly 700,000 people might have contracted coronavirus in the provincial capital. The department had issued the warning on the basis of data gathered in previous weeks. It warned that no workplace or neighbourhood in the provincial capital was safe from coronavirus.
The department had also refuted justification of zoning and smart lockdown, stating that the number of patients was increasing rapidly. It was expected that the situation would further aggravate and number of coronavirus patients would increase dramatically in the provincial capital and other urban areas across Punjab owing to casual attitude of the people who showed little regard for the safety SOPs during Eid holidays.
Official statistics indicate a 300% increase in number of coronavirus patients and 332% increase in deaths across Punjab during May. The data shows that the province had 6,733 patients on May 1, while the number surpassed 26,240 on May 31. Similarly, the total number of people in the province who lost the battle against coronavirus disease was 115 on May 1 and reached 497 on May 31. The highest number of deaths of patients due to the virus in the province in a day was recorded on May 30 at 36.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 2nd, 2020.