ICTA’s curfew-like measures

By Adnan Rafique

ISLAMABAD / RAWALPINDI: With the number of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the federal capital rising to 20 on Wednesday, the district administration announced curfew-like measures in the city, including the closure of private offices and public transport, and even sealed some areas owing to fears of clusters developing there.
The district administration sealed the suburban Union Council (UC) Kot Hathial in the Bhara Kahu area of the federal capital on Wednesday. This is the second time this week the UC has been sealed this week after it was shut down by police and units of the military for several hours on Monday.
With at least 13 confirmed cases emerging from the locality, all of them among a group of Tableeghi Jamaat members who had taken up accommodation in a local mosque, officials feared that they could have created a cluster of Covid-19 cases in the locality. To ensure that nobody leaves, army personnel have been deployed at the entry and exit points of the area.
A similar move was seen in the Faizabad area where the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) shut down all markets and stores while the transport hub was also cordoned off by soldiers. Several people were reported to have been affected by the highly contagious virus in the area, hence All unrelated people were directed to leave the area at the earliest.
Enforcing the lockdown
Despite the lockdown announced by the district administration, locals seemed to ignore the administrative orders and chose to venture out of their homes in groups. Some drove around the capital in their cars or on their motorbikes while others were seen roaming and loitering on greenbelts and roadside parks.
However, the capital police were vigorous in enforcing orders of the district administration under which mass gatherings of the public are banned and only a single motorist is allowed in each vehicle, except in an emergency.
Several people, who were wandering or sitting in parks in groups were instructed to return home by the police. They were further advised to stay indoors.
Many families who drove around with the intent of excursions were stopped by the police at pickets established on various thoroughfares in Islamabad.
Those who failed to provide any reason for stepping out home were stopped from proceeding and directed to return homes. Only those commuting to work, purchasing groceries or medical items or rushing to hospitals in an emergency were allowed to proceed from the pickets.
Inspector General Police (IGP) Aamir Zulfiqar Khan appealed to residents of the city to stay at home and avoid unnecessary movement. He added that pillion riding in the federal capital has been banned while any movement towards Bhara Kahu locality has also been prohibited.
Rawalpindi goes into lockdown
Like in neighbouring Islamabad, all shops, markets and commercial activities in Rawalpindi were closed on Wednesday.
The closure came after Punjab announced a general lockdown of the province. People, who were instructed to stay inside their houses, left the streets empty. Major commercial centres such as Raja Bazar, Barra market, Commercial Market, Saddar and other places in the city also remained closed on Tuesday. However, all the medical and general stores are open in the city. Police vans patrolled the streets to make sure that that a large number of people do not gather anywhere. Residents of the city, however, voiced their satisfaction over the measures taken by the government. There would be more chances of the coronavirus spread had the government not imposed a lockdown, they said.
The Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) had late on Tuesday announced specific measures to implement a partial lockdown in the federal capital to ensure public safety.
A notification issued by the ICTA said that these measures were in continuation to an order issued by Interior Ministry earlier to impose the Section 144 in Islamabad. The measures will remain in force until at least April 7.
The notification said that all markets, shopping malls, restaurants and private offices shall remain closed. Public offices will function for reduced hours from 10am to 4pm, except on Fridays when they will operate from 10am to 1pm.
To stop the movement of any suspected Covid-19 patient, ICTA has banned all intra-city, inter-district and inter-province public transport. However, it has allowed the metro bus service between Rawalpindi and Islamabad to ply for four hours daily. The notice said that the bus service will remain functional in two spells, from 8am to 10:30am and from 3:30pm to 5:30pm. On Fridays, the bus service will operate from 8:30am to 10:30am and from 12:30pm to 2:30pm.
Keeping in view that people have to travel for basic or emergency needs, the ICTA has allowed taxis to continue. There shall also be a complete ban on all kinds of gatherings including social and religious at any place such as public or private. The outpatient departments (OPDs) in all hospitals would remain suspended. However, emergency services will remain operational.