Health experts have raised concerns over disregard for the pandemic standard operating procedures (SOPs) - the most obvious of them being not wearing masks and maintaining no social distance - as the second wave of Covid-19 shows little sign of abating.
Following the initial outbreak of the coronavirus, many attributed the disregard for wearing masks to their shortage and high prices. However, now, when the prices are relatively lower, it is observed that citizens continue to ignore the importance of wearing masks even when the government has announced a penalty of Rs500 for those not following the instruction.
In this connection, Pakistan Medical Association general secretary Dr Qaiser Sajjad has proposed that the government consider imposing a complete lockdown for 15 days if citizens continue to be reckless about following the SOPs.
"The second wave of the coronavirus is extremely dangerous and the only way to avoid getting infected is wearing masks," he said while talking to The Express Tribune.
He further called for stringent measures and implementing a uniform policy across the country for curbing the spread of the contagion. "Plus, a fine of Rs5,000 should be imposed on those not wearing masks," he added.
Echoing these thoughts, special assistant to the Sindh chief minister Waqar Mehdi also said that people must follow the SOPs to control the spread of the coronavirus and keep the economy going.
Talking to The Express Tribune, he warned of "stricter action" if the situation got out of hand.
"If it [the pandemic] gets out of control… there could be a complete lockdown after consultation with health experts and the National Command and Operation Centre.
Meanwhile, masks remain amply available at more affordable prices than before in markets across Karachi.
A citizen associated with the business, Muhammad Saleem, told The Express Tribune that a pack of 50 surgical masks was being sold for Rs180 to Rs250, while different types of N95 masks were available between a range of Rs150 and Rs500.
However, N95 masks with filters are somewhat costly, being sold for Rs1,200 or more, he added. "The better the quality, high the price," said Saleem.
Faisal, who sells masks near Teen Hatti, sharing his observations with The Express Tribune, said people had started to wear masks after the announcement of a penalty for disregarding the SOPs. Hence, many have also adopted selling masks as a temporary profession, he added.
According to him, a cloth mask is available for as little as Rs10 now, with those made of other materials are being sold for Rs30 to Rs50.
"Citizens, however, prefer using cloth mask as they are washable and can be reused," said Faisal.
Meanwhile, amid the chilly nights and strict implementation of SOPs pertaining to the early closure of businesses and winding up of events, the city of lights now wears a more serene look at night.
Due to the drop in mercury and closures of markets by 8pm, people prefer buying essential items and completing all purchases during the daytime. The pandemic SOPs regarding the closure of markets also appear to be implemented across the city, barring a few areas.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 30th, 2020.