LAHORE: The official ban on Youm-i-Ali processions in the wake of coronavirus pandemic was blatantly violated on Friday, with the provincial capital police apparently looking helpless.

Thousands of participants completely ignored standard operating procedures (SOPs) as they took out a procession from Nisar Havaili to Karbala Gamay Shah. Their shoulder to shoulder movement spanning over three hours was a cause of serious concern for health authorities.

Police sources said that some leaders of the Shia organisations had already warned them privately that the Punjab government ban on processions might not be observed.

For medical and public health experts it was a `disaster in the making’ as the provincial capital was already reporting the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases. They apprehended massive transmission of the virus in coming days and weeks.

12 more Covid deaths in Punjab, 336 new cases, second policeman dies in line of duty

Lahore Operations SSP Faisal Shahzad told Dawn that police high-ups had held a series of dialogues with the leadership of the Shia community to get assurances that they would not take out traditional procession as per the Punjab government’s standing orders but they failed to keep their words.

To a question about any action against the organisers, he said it was under consideration.

Reports of such violations came from other areas of the province as well.

COVID DEATHS: Twelve more Covid-19 patients died while 336 others tested positive for the virus across Punjab during the last 24 hours.

Seven of the 12 patients died in Lahore, two in Gujranwala and one each in Gujrat, Multan and Faisalabad, taking Punjab’s death toll to 235, including 89 in the provincial capital.

Among the dead was a head constable of Lahore police. Father of three, Ramzan Alam was working as a reader of the Iqbal Town DSP.

He was shifted to the Jinnah Hospital with respiratory issues where he was confirmed as a Covid-19 patient. He was the second policeman to die in Punjab from the virus.

Of the new patients, 168 tested positive for the virus in Lahore, 50 in Gujranwala, 47 Faisalabad, 32 in Gujrat etc.

The total number of confirmed cases has reached 6,867 in Lahore and 13,914 in rest of Punjab.

A spokesperson for the health department said 4,720 confirmed patients of the virus had been discharged from various hospitals and quarantine centres of the province so far.

Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2020

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