Unchecked movement of people makes smart lockdown ineffective

Updated Jun 20 2020

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KARACHI: A general view of traffic on the M.A. Jinnah Road after the government lifted the weeks-long countrywide lockdown.
— Reuters/File
KARACHI: A general view of traffic on the M.A. Jinnah Road after the government lifted the weeks-long countrywide lockdown. — Reuters/File

KARACHI: The smart lockdown imposed by the Sindh government to contain the spread of coronavirus was rendered largely ineffective on Friday as while the local administration and law enforcement agencies succeeded to close down business centres to a large extent, they failed to stop people’s movement in the neighbourhoods identified as Covid-19 hotspots, officials and sources said.

The lockdown in targeted areas of the metropolis came into effect on Thursday evening after the Karachi commissioner issued orders for a complete shutdown at 7pm on June 18, to remain in place till July 2, whereby public movement would be restricted and business activities would stay shut.

“Anyone entering or exiting the locked down area has to wear a mask without any exception. Movement of people residing in the areas under a lockdown will be strictly restricted,” reads the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the commissioner’s office for the smart lockdown.

However, the people defied the SOPs and their free movement was seen in most of the areas under lockdown with no checks from authorities concerned. In many areas key business centres remained closed but transport and people’s movement by and large remained as usual.

Traders say lockdown in select areas has only hit their businesses

Business activities in Saddar suspended*

Traders and businessmen also came up with a strong reaction against the smart lockdown saying it was creating confusion and only affecting their businesses while failing to serve its original purpose.

“Under the fresh lockdown, the government has closed all major business centres in Saddar which were opened just a couple of weeks ago after two months,” said Mohammad Rizwan of the Karachi Electronics Dealers Association.

“We can’t understand the strategy and traders came to know about the fresh order only when they came this morning to open their shops. All commercial and business centres along M.A. Jinnah Road were also closed. It’s not fair.”

Under the fresh orders, more than 40 neighbourhoods in over a dozen union committees of the city’s six districts were identified for a smart lockdown.

The traders also pointed out “ambiguity and flaws” in the orders issued by the authorities, which had further complicated the situation.

“For instance, if you move around commercial areas of Tariq Road, you would find shops and business centres open on one side of the road and closed on the other side,” said Ilyas Memon of the All Karachi Anjuman-i-Tajiran Ittehad (AKATI).

“People park their vehicles on the closed side. You would find hundreds of people in the locked down part and moving freely. There’s hardly any social distancing but only businesses are closed. We appeal to the government to come up with a clear policy. If they want to impose the lockdown, then close everything completely. It’s not helping anyone.”

The Sindh government earlier this week came up with its smart lockdown policy after the federal government identified some 20 potential Covid-19 hotspots across the country where restrictive measures are needed to contain the virus.

Following the Sindh government, the local administration moved into action to place restrictions in several areas of different districts of the province and finally came up with the same order for Karachi on Wednesday evening.

However, the two-week restriction has yet to be seen effective as movement of people remains unaffected in several residential areas in Gulshan-i-Iqbal, Gulistan-i-Jauhar, Korangi, Shah Faisal Colony, Orangi Town and others under the smart lockdown.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2020