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Tuesday May 12 2020
Web Desk

Traders disregard virus prevention protocols as business activities resume in Karachi

Web Desk
Smart lockdown attempt falls flat on first day. Photo: File

KARACHI: Small markets and shops were violating the coronavirus Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) on Monday as business activities resumed in Karachi after an almost two month-long hiatus due to a lockdown imposed to contain the spread of the virus, The News reported.

According to the report, shopkeepers were not wearing masks at several small markets across the city and social distancing protocols were not being followed in most of the places that reopened on Monday morning. Markets, however, remained busy throughout the day. 

Traders had been allowed to resume business activities by the Sindh government after an agreement was reached by the representative organisations of the traders with the provincial authorities. Markets in the business hub of Saddar also opened on Monday.

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Markets not observing social distancing

At a popular clothing market in Saddar, lots of vehicle and foot traffic was observed, according to The News. Nearby markets of travel essentials, shoes and other clothing items also remained busy. Shopping malls, however, remained closed as per the agreement. 

“There was so much traffic that even the lifter of the traffic police was unable to lift the cars and motorbikes that were parked illegally,” said Zeeshan Khanzada, a Korangi resident who was in Saddar to buy clothes for Eidul Fitr, which will be observed within a fortnight.

“I went inside three or four shops,” he said, adding that a few shops were small, while a few had enough room inside. “There wasn’t any social distancing, neither was anyone wearing a mask. At a few shops the security guards sanitised my hand.”

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'Shopkeepers not wearing masks'

The markets for electronic items also reopened on Monday. The chief of the representative organisation of the markets, Muhammad Rizwan, told The News that the markets could not observe social distancing due to the size of shops and the congested lanes where they were located.

He maintained that the SOPs regarding the virus could not be followed because of the number of people who showed up to the market as it reopened. However, he added that he would personally ensure no further virus protocol violations took place. 

He admitted that half of the shopkeepers were not even wearing masks. The home department of Sindh had issued a notification on Sunday that stated that the proprietor, owner, manager, or person responsible for any shop, outlet, or business has to ensure compliance with the SOPs. 

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'Action against those who violate SOPs'

According to the notification, the business owners have also been requested to submit a list of people present at their business at any time of the day to the relevant office of the deputy commissioner. Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shallwani also commented on the matter.

"No customer of shopkeeper will be allowed inside any market without a mask, stressing that the permission to reopen shops is linked to compliance with the SOPs," he said in a statement on Monday, forwarded to the media by his office, according to The News.

The commissioner said that shopkeepers have to ensure that no customer enters the market without wearing a face mask. “Action will be taken against the shopkeepers who violate the SOPs," he warned. 

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'Authorities can seal shops violating rules'

Shallwani ordered that the shopkeepers and labourers who are working at different shops or outlets must have their names printed outside the shops they are associated with.

“The SOPs issued by the Sindh government should be prominently displayed at all the shops that are open,” he said in the statement, adding that only one customer needs to be dealt with at a time.

He also added a disinfectant spray needed to be present at shop premises all the times, noting that SOPs stipulated that shopkeepers that disinfect the entire shop after every three hours.

In case of a rush of customers, the commissioner ordered marking circles for them so they can form queues. He also asked that temperature guns be used. "If these SOPs are not followed, the authorities can seal the shops found to be violating the rules," he said.

Originally published in The News