SOPs flouted as Karachi fails to observe curfew

Markets in residential neighborhoods continue operating past sanctioned business hours, administration turns blind eye


Aamir Khan June 04, 2021

KARACHI:

As the country’s coronavirus positivity ratio continues to drop amid a decline in virus cases, the Sindh government however believes that the province could use another few weeks of restrictions for good measure.

The limitations, which included curtailed business hours and a nighttime curfew, were introduced in the days after Eidul Fitar, considering the relatively high number of Covid-19 cases in Sindh’s urban areas.

It was believed that if urban hubs like Karachi, where cases had spiked, followed protocol and avoided public places for a few weeks, the province could survive the virus’ third-wave and soon return to normalcy.

To ascertain all goes as planned, police mobiles were stationed on highways and street corners around the city. Per law, all marketplaces, malls, bazaars and stores— other than those exempted— were to shut down by 6:00 PM, indoors and outdoor dining was to remain suspended and an 8:00 PM curfew was placed to limit unnecessary movement in the city, past working hours.

However, despite strong-worded policies on paper, the restrictions appear to have had little impact on the city’s semi-urban and residential neighborhoods, where small businesses have been functioning unbridled, SOPs continue to be flouted and public movement has remained largely unrestrained.

“Big markets in areas like Saddar, Kemari and SITE have been routinely closing down by 6:00 PM. It is smaller areas where business activities continue to go till midnight and shops operate behind half-drawn shutters. Police mobiles do patrol here and there, but most shopkeepers have allegedly cracked a deal with the police and district administration, who extend some certain leniency. Then they go right back to business as soon as the police van clears,” said a local storeowner on conditions of anonymity.

Per local sources, the curfew meant to keep citizens indoors between 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM also appears to have frizzled out, after a few days of vigor. “It’s common to see unrestricted movement past curfew in the city, no one really bothers. Night matches have been going on every weekend on residential streets and although SOPs restrict more than two passengers per vehicle, no one really seems to be following it.

Moreover, people have even stopped wearing masks now and mosques too are full to the brim and operating per routine, without any social distancing. It seems we have all turned a blind-eye to the third-wave now,” shared Sajid, a final-year university student from Karachi.

Other than the drop in SOP implementation, residents of the port-city appear to have landed themselves in a new conundrum, where the efficacy and safety of vaccines is once again under question. Much of this confusion is said to stem from rumors, hoaxes and misinformation circulating on social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp groups. “I don’t know how much of it is true, but I have received messages saying that these vaccines cause death within two years, which is quite scary,” alleged Amin, a middle-aged real-estate agent.

The government, on the other hand, has categorically denied all these rumors, instead citing a recent increase in vaccination rate across the city. Adding to the government’s claims, Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) Secretary General Prof Dr. Qaiser Sajjad, confirmed that there no scientific evidence to any claims being made against the vaccines on social media. “Every citizen should make vaccination a priority without any fear, those suffering from major illnesses should also consider vaccination after consulting their physician. But even if already vaccinated, people should still bear with the SOPs for a while. It is a few days of inconvenience, but if we follow the government’s advisory, we will save several lives and survive this pandemic together,” he urged.

Speaking in this regard, Chief Minister’s Advisor Waqar Mehdi however, maintained that the measure taken by the Sindh government has reflected in a drop in coronavirus cases in the region.

“We have tightened restrictions in the province, but it is a temporary measure. As soon as cases start going down, we will relax them upon review. These policies have helped us control the situation in the province so far, and we will soon conquer the third-wave too,” he told The Express Tribune.

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