Markets, shops flout Sindh govt orders despite ‘strict’ lockdown

Several nonessential services and shops are operating per usual despite the presence of police

Hafeez Tunio June 26, 2020
People pass on each other as they shop from stalls in a market after Pakistan started easing the lockdown restrictions. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: The provincial government’s plan to impose a complete lockdown in coronavirus hotspots of Karachi has fizzled out. Several nonessential services and shops are operating per usual despite the presence of police and relevant authorities, who are now showing a lukewarm response to the Covid-19 threat.

“Yesterday, I went to a barber’s shop for a haircut. Believe me, nobody was wearing a mask or practising social distancing,” Shah, a resident of Bizerta Lines - which has been declared one of the coronavirus hotspots - told The Express Tribune.

Not only barbers’ shops and beauty salons but mechanic shops and restaurants are also open for business in many areas of Karachi, even in the sensitive union councils which had been sealed on June 17. According to a government notification, several areas across the six districts of Karachi were declared highly vulnerable because of the number of coronavirus positive patients residing therein. As a result, people were told not to leave their houses unless necessary — a warning which fell on deaf ears.

“Only groceries and pharmacies will remain open. The industrial units in the particular areas will remain closed and even takeaway and home deliveries of food items will also be not allowed,” the notification read. Unfortunately, the people, as well as the police, bluntly ignored the orders.

“Police personnel are sitting on entry and exit points, allowing nonessential services to continue under their noses,” a resident of Essa Nagri in Gulshan-e-Iqbal said, adding that his area which comes under Union Council 4 (UC-4) was declared a hotspot, but tea shops, restaurants, salons and mechanic shops are all operating as normal.

After the recent orders, areas like Saddar, Light House, Jama Cloth Market and Tibet Centre, however, remained closed.

Apart from the hotspots, the government had earlier announced that markets or shops would not be allowed to operate after 7pm throughout the province, but that order, too, was flouted by almost all shops and markets throughout the city.

A female doctor, who lives in a high-rise building located in Defence View Phase 3, said that there is a superstore on the ground floor of her apartment which had asked customers to enter through the backdoor to avoid the police, adding that it remained open until 2am every day.

“They pull down the front shutter at 7pm but continue to use the backdoor. People can be seen entering and leaving without following any standard operating procedures (SOPs),” she said. “I can see the police mobile parked in front of the store daily. They are fully aware of what is happening through the backdoor, but they are not taking any action.”

It is not only shops that are violating the SOPs, but drivers of online car and bicycle services have also started taking matters lightly.

“Last week, I called a Bykea rider. He was not wearing a mask or a helmet,” Mehtab Ahmed, a resident of Gulshan-e-Iqbal said. “When I asked why, he said it was too hot and suffocating to wear a mask. It looks like people have forgotten about the pandemic.”

When approached, Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani said the government has penalised many shops for violating the SOPs and flouting government orders by operating beyond 7pm.

“Deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners are tasked with visiting different areas and sealing shops violating the order,” he remarked. “We are penalising those who are selling things on exorbitant prices or keeping their shops open even after the scheduled time too.”

Published in The Express Tribune, June 26th, 2020.

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