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Wednesday May 20 2020
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Coronavirus SOPs ignored as residents flock to markets in Lahore

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People gather as they wait for the reopening of shops in Lahore. Photo: AFP

LAHORE: With lockdown restrictions eased, residents in Lahore rushed towards city markets and shopping centres, violating the standard operating procedures (SOPs) put forward by the government to stem the spread of the virus, reported The News on Wednesday.

At shopping malls, big grocery stores and cash and carry stores, and different markets, women with young children could be seen despite the government banning children from the markets. 

“Observing social distancing is a dream, which we can see but can’t implement,” a senior official of district administration told The News on the condition of anonymity. He said soft order was to close our eyes until Eid because the government was under immense pressure from the traders community who wanted to open their shops before Eid-ul-Fitr.

“It seems that people are released from prison,” commented a shopkeeper of Ichra market. He said the market committee did nothing to protect the citizens as well as to implement the SOPs.

Parking at most of the city malls also saw throngs of people, with long queues outside malls. In Johar Town, long queues of vehicles were witnessed outside a big mall, which is situated right next to Expo Centre where coronavirus patients are under treatment.

Similarly, in Model Town, parking of a cash and carry was also full and people were seen parking their vehicles on the main Model Town Link Road and other side roads. Most of the small shops openly violated the SOP of providing sanitizers to their customers while at many points people were seen jam-packed in small shops especially at Karim Block Market, Panorama Centre, Anarkali, Liberty, Ichra, Chungi Amarsadhu, Township, Johar Town G1, Wapda Town, etc.

The SOP of not bringing children especially minor ones to markets was also not followed and hundreds of women were seen carrying infants or minor kids with them while shopping in the city markets.

“I can’t provide sanitizers to all of my customers because it is not a cheap item,” Bilal, a small trader, selling henna and bangles said. He said he can’t afford the product because over 500 visitors daily visit his shop, which means he needed gallons of sanitizers.

Other shopkeepers are of a similar view. Shops owners said they could not stop people from coming to their shops as this will hurt their business. However, some shops were seen to be following the SOPs with security guards, stopping customers from entering if two or three customers were already in the shop.

Hammad, manager of such a shop in Karim Block, said they had lost a large number of customers due to implementing social distancing because customers did not wait and moved to the next shop if denied entry.

Jamila Khalid, a resident of Faisal Town, said she had come to get a dress for her little girl which is why she had brought her daughter along. She said she had a bottle of sanitizer in her purse which she used before entering a shop.

Kaleem, a resident of Alhamd Colony, said he came to buy shoes for Eid in Anarkali because he could not afford to buy shoes from a big brand and the only affordable option was the bazaar.

“We can’t stop masses from coming to markets and it is the duty and responsibility of the public to take safety measures,” said Danish Afzal, Deputy Commissioner Lahore while talking to The News.

He said there were almost 200 big and small markets in the provincial capital and it was not easy to keep a track of all. He added the traders community had assured them of implementing the SOPs, but so far they had failed to fulfill their commitment.

Responding to a question, if this situation would boost the number of coronavirus cases, Afzal said, it would. “The district administration has already briefed the government about this situation.”

Originally published in The News