People not wearing masks will be arrested, warns Lahore commissioner

Published March 28, 2021
Senior citizens wait their turn to receive the Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine from a health worker at a vaccination center in Lahore on March 18. — AP
Senior citizens wait their turn to receive the Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine from a health worker at a vaccination center in Lahore on March 18. — AP

LAHORE: Lahore Commissioner retired Capt Muhammad Usman on Saturday warned that those found without mask at a public place will be sent behind bars, as it has been decided in principle to ensure implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to curb Covid-19 spread.

The order will be effective from Sunday (today).

“We are passing through peak time of the third wave of the coronavirus that is spreading very fast in Lahore in particular and other parts of Punjab in general. Since many Covid-19 positive patients are being shifted to hospitals [in Lahore] on a daily basis, we have decided to ensure strict preventive measure to avert further spread of the virus,” Mr Usman explained while talking to Dawn on Saturday.

“Therefore, we have decided to launch a crackdown from March 28 against all those not wearing masks, besides flouting other SOPs. Simply, we have been left with no option but to arrest all those found without masks on the city roads, markets, hospitals, parks, shops, malls etc,” he added.

According to Mr Usman, who also headed the primary healthcare department as secretary for about two years, the people in Lahore, in particular, are showing a very casual attitude regarding Covid-19 SOPs, including masks and ensuring social distancing while moving in the city, resulting in virus’ fast transmission.

Pickets to be set up in markets etc to punish violators of SOPs

“This time, all the public and private hospitals are packed with Covid-positive cases. And it means whosoever is coming to hospital is a serious patient needing oxygen or other emergency care. The number of positive cases not reporting to hospitals may probably be much higher than such patients,” he explained.

He said in such circumstances it had become necessary to make non-pharmaceutical interventions like lockdown, closure of schools and markets, making people wear masks and ensuring social distancing etc. Therefore, the decision to launch a crackdown on the violators of the Covid SOPs had been taken, he added.

“We cannot afford this situation. Even New York’s health system, one of the best in the world, collapsed because of sudden and massive increase in the number of Covid patients reporting to hospitals. So the only option left with us is to treat irresponsible citizens with strictness,” the commissioner said, explaining that the government’s objective was not to fill jails, but to create awareness and deterrence among the people regarding the SOPs.

He said the order would be enforced on everyone, including those present in front of their houses or in the streets without masks.

He said the violators would immediately be taken into custody by police teams that would patrol the entire city. Pickets headed by police officers and assistant commissioners had also been established at several busy markets, malls and other public places, he added for immediate action against the violators, he added.

“When 40/50 people from each market will be taken to police station or jail after registration of FIRs, it will convey a message to all. In this way the people will start wearing masks,” he hoped.

Meanwhile, a meeting presided over by the Lahore commissioner was held here on Saturday night.

The participants in the meeting including the Lahore deputy commissioner and and capital city police officer (CCPO) expressed concerns over the sharp increase in the number of Covid cases in the provincial metropolis.

The meeting decided the way and means to launch a crackdown and arrest those flouting Covid SOPs in the city.

Earlier, a city administration team headed by the commissioner distributed masks among the people at various spots in the city. They also asked them to wear masks outdoors, failing which they would be taken to task.

“Our teams distributed masks among the people at as many as 200 spots of the city on Saturday. They will keep doing this, along with making arrests of the SOPs flouters,” Mr Usman said.

Meanwhile, Inspector General of Police Inam Ghani said the Punjab Police would continue to perform its duties on the front line as well as implement Covid SOPs and spread awareness among the masses.

In a letter addressed to all RPOs, CPOs and DPOs, the IGP ordered the officers to extend full support to the commissioners and deputy commissioners for implementation of the SOPs across the province.

He further directed that all possible cooperation should be extended to the district administration to ensure compliance of government orders regarding closure of markets on Saturdays and Sundays.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2021

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