LAHORE: The city markets were flooded with Eid shoppers On Thursday, ahead of a week-long complete lockdown announced by the Punjab government, under instructions of National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), from Saturday (tomorrow), amid large-scale violations of Covid-19 standard operation procedures, especially social distancing.
The rush in the markets was expected since the total lockdown was announced as part of the government’s anti-Covid measures, including closure of educational institutions and banquet halls, and imposition of a ban on dining at restaurants and hotels, congregations, cinema shows, besides all kinds of sports and entertainment events, after an alarming surge in the coronavirus infections in the country.
The city markets also witnessed a massive footfall as the business hours had already been curtailed by several hours, allowing shops to open from 9am to 6pm only.
The shoppers, a majority of them women and children, were mostly seen wearing masks in the posh area markets, including MM Alam Road and DHA . However, the people threw all caution to wind in the downtown markets like Ichhra main bazaar and Anarkali etc.
Massive SOPs violations in city markets
The Eid shopping also resulted in traffic blockages on different roads in and around the bustling markets and motorists were seen trapped on various arteries, in Gulberg, Shadman, Ichhra etc.In many areas where the traffic was clogged, the traffic wardens were nowhere to be seen.
The pictures showing total disregard of SOPs, especially social distancing, caused serious concern among social media users, who slammed the violators as well as the police and administration who were supposed to enforce the Covid curbs in the markets.
Meanwhile, the district administration also sprung into action after reports of violations and shut several markets, shopping centres and restaurants in different areas of the city, including 17 hotels and five shops and a market in the Misri Shah area.
The shoppers told Dawn that as they were given only one day for Eid shopping before complete lockdown, it was bound to happen. Many of them were of the view that the rush and resulting SOPs violations could have been minimised if the government had allowed the markets to function round the clock till Saturday.
“The government should allow it to provide time to the people to buy daily use items and do the Eid shopping with ease,” a shopper suggested.
The shopkeepers also deplored the decision to impose lockdown ahead of Eid, saying it caused them heavy losses as this time of the year used to witness peak sales a couple of years back.
The women buying clothes for themselves and their loved-ones also complained that they had to do the Eid shopping in a hurry due to Covid curbs, especially the lockdown.
Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) Senior Vice President Nasir Hameed Khan said the government had closed markets in several areas over SOPs violations by shopkeepers. He said the closure of these markets pushed the customers to other busy markets that got overcrowded.
He said the middle class families were usually the main buyers on occasions like Eid and If they were denied the opportunity to shop it would definitely hit the traders.
He demanded the timing for the shopping should be increased, suggesting the markets should be allowed to function round the clock till May 8.
He said it was the responsibility of the government to implement the coronavirus SOPs, but it should not be done in a way that affected the traders adversely.
Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021