From Zeeshan Mirza
KARACHI: Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shallwani on Wednesday ordered the sealing of a number of major markets and shopping centres and at least three stores in the city for violating the standard operating procedures (SOPs) issued by the government before easing the coronavirus lockdown for traders and the public. In the East district of the city, three major stores Limelight, Shoe Planet and Stylo were sealed for allowing large crowds inside the shops. The markets and shopping centres shuttered in the South district include Zainab Market, Saddar; Victoria Centre, Saddar; International Centre, Saddar; Madina City Mall, Saddar; Al Haram Centre, Garden; Gul Plaza, Garden; and Jillani Centre, Arambagh.
At least two beauty salons were also sealed in the district for not following the guidelines. One of the stores sealed in Karachi. “These shops have been sealed as they were violating the SOPs despite warnings and my personal visits to all these markets,” the commissioner said in a statement. He warned that the businesses of shopkeepers who do not implement the government-mandated SOPs will be sealed.
Markets across the country were seen teeming after opening up on Monday for the first time in over a month as the nationwide lockdown was eased despite a steep rise in the number of Covid-19 infections. Areas around wholesale markets in Karachi saw heavy traffic jams, and there were also big crowds in the commercial centres of Lahore and Quetta. In numerous places, many people were seen not observing the government-issued guidelines to prevent further spread of Covid-19, including by not wearing masks and not maintaining a physical distance. On Tuesday, speakers at a press conference in Karachi had expressed serious concerns over the irresponsible conduct of citizens following relaxation in the lockdown and described it as “a public health disaster in the making”.
They also criticised the federal government for its “lack of understanding” in containing the spread of Covid-19. “Yesterday, after relaxation of the lockdown, we noted with horror that most people on streets, shopkeepers and salesmen, and even policemen and journalists were either not wearing face masks at all or not using it properly.
We also saw people with three to four children travelling on bikes and in rickshaws without any precaution,” said Dr Shershah Syed, a senior physician-cum-activist. “If the government doesn’t want a lockdown, it should ensure with the help of law enforcement agencies that everyone strictly follow the precautionary measures which should be repeated on the radio and television to create mass awareness.”