Shoppers in Rawalpindi flout SOPs after restrictions on businesses lifted

Published May 12, 2020
Thousands of people flock to Rawalpindi’s markets flouting social distancing and Covid-19 preventive measures. — Dawn/File
Thousands of people flock to Rawalpindi’s markets flouting social distancing and Covid-19 preventive measures. — Dawn/File

RAWALPINDI: Thousands of people flocked to Rawalpindi’s markets on Monday, flouting social distancing and Covid-19 preventive measures, after the government allowed businesses to reopen on the 49th day of the partial lockdown. In the meantime, the number of Covid-19 cases has continued to rise.

Large shopping malls, dine-in restaurants, educational institutions, hotels, marquees and wedding halls and cinemas are still closed, and public processions, congregations of all kinds, organised sports events and concerts are still prohibited.

The metro bus service is also suspended, and a meeting will be held on the resumption of public transport with representatives of provincial and district-level transporters to prepare standard operating procedures (SOP) under which public transport may be allowed to run.

After Prime Minister Imran Khan warned that irresponsible behaviour would squander the freedoms that come from easing the lockdown, Information Minister Shibli Faraz also said on Monday that the lockdown on businesses will be reimposed if safety guidelines are not followed.

The Punjab government has issued a directive on the reopening of businesses including all retail outlets other than large shopping malls, subject to the implementation of SOPs and guidelines, for four days a week.

Hundreds of people, most of them ignoring government SOPs, gathered in markets without wearing masks - which have been deemed essential in public places as a way to prevent the spread of Covid-19 alongside social distancing in Punjab.

In the city and cantonment areas, shopkeepers set up kiosks and stalls selling clothing, fabric and accessories on pavements and roads, blocking traffic.

A pedestrian remarked that “anybody could be seen socialising, even in shops and markets and while walking.”

Another shopper who seemed unbothered by the SOPs or the spread of the coronavirus, said: “Eidul Fit is approaching and being parents we have to buy clothes and other items for our children.”

Traders, however, seemed happy albeit concerned about the losses they faced due to the lockdown.

In addition to the crowds in markets, Murree Road, Kashmir Road, Jhelum Road, Airport Road, Raja Bazar, Liaquat Bagh Road, Commercial Market and link roads were flooded with motorcycles and other vehicles.

Police have been stationed at pickets to reiterate to the public that precautions for Covid-19 must be observed as the virus is continuing to spread.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2020

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