KARACHI: A government decision to impose a Rs500 fine for not wearing a face mask at public places has failed to make any impact as in more than two weeks officials of the municipal and district administration have managed to penalise only 54 people for violating the notified standard operating procedures (SOPs), forcing them to conclude that the move is impracticable and almost impossible to fetch the desired results.
In view of a surge in Covid-19 cases during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, the National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) earlier this month had issued new guidelines banning indoor marriages, fixing a fine for not wearing masks and allowing “work from home” for 50 per cent staff of public and private institutions.
Authorities have imposed fines on only 54 people across Karachi over two-week period
Later, Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Ali Shallwani directed the administration to take strict action against those found not wearing mask at public places and impose a Rs500 fine on them for violating the SOPs.
The decision of imposing such a hefty fine that too in Karachi alone came as a surprise for many. However, it has failed to work as a deterrence for the people who are largely ignoring the advice of health experts and officials.
Figures showed that the local administration has itself not been able to make wearing of masks at public places compulsory.
“Only 54 people across Karachi were fined following the launch of the campaign,” said an official at the commissioner office. “Among those 54, 26 were fined in district Central, 15 in Malir and 13 in South.”
He said that the NCOC had asked the provinces to implement its new guidelines under their own modus operandi. Keeping in view the alarming situation of Covid-19 in the province, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had called for strict implementation of SOPs in all business, social, religious, educational and other institutions and in case of non-compliance directed the authorities concerned to take strict action.
The same evening, he said, the commissioner office had announced imposing Rs500 fine for not wearing masks. The fines were imposed the very next day in district Central and people without masks were spotted by random mobile teams of the district administrations and penalised, he added.
“But the initiative proved short-lived,” he said. “This is not a crime and one can only request or convince someone verbally to follow the SOPs or wear masks. We can ask businesses to follow timings, we can issue directives to restaurants or shopping centres to allow restricted number of people at their facilities but we can’t ask everyone to wear mask. The people need to show some responsibility themselves. In district West there was almost a scuffle between officials of district administration and some people when they asked them to wear mask or pay fine. Such situations were reported from almost all districts.”
He said that the recovery rate in the province was encouraging but the new spike in cases was worrisome and needed immediate measures to contain the virus.
The commissioner had already issued directives to the deputy commissioners to ensure proper and strict implementation of SOPs such as wearing masks, observing social distancing, avoiding handshake and crowds, he added.
Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2020