As the citizens across the country are not following the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for protection from coronavirus, the federal government on Wednesday said that it would impose another lockdown. As the government is planning to close several markets in Pakistan, experts fear that the people’s carelessness may lead to some dangerous outcomes as the COVID-19 cases are exponentially increasing now.
Dr Shahbaz Gill in a message on Twitter said: ” For not following the SOPs in the wake of NCOC decisions several markets will be closed across the country today. The operation has begun in Punjab and KPK. We should all follow the SOPs at all costs.”
NCOC کے فیصلوں کے تناظر میں لاک ڈاؤن کی SOP فالو نہ کرنے پر پورے ملک میں کئی بڑی مارکیٹیں آج بند کر دی جائیں گی۔ پنجاب اور کے پی کے میں آپریشن شروع کر دیا گیا ہے۔ ہم سب کو ہر صورت SOPs فالو کرنے ہوں گے۔
— Dr. Shahbaz GiLL (@SHABAZGIL) June 4, 2020
Shibli Faraz, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting, held a press conference and expressed disappointment at the way people ignored protective measures after the government eased restrictions, and once again urged them to follow the SOPs to curb rising Covid-19 cases, because failure to do some would prompt the government to reimpose a lockdown.
The minister said that the government eased the restrictions to provide livelihood opportunities to the weaker segments of the society. He said that the government also launched the social welfare initiatives like Ehsaas to facilitate the disadvantaged segments of society.
Talking about the government’s strategy, he said that they were pursuing a very well organized and coordinated strategy to curb the spread of the contagion. “This is the reason why the coronavirus cases are less than our estimates,” he said.
Earlier, Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Planning and Development, has warned to close several markets in Pakistan after reports of people crowding the markets and bazaars were highlighted on the national and international media. “It seems people believe that lockdown has been completely lifted,” the minister said. “I hope that people would understand the gravity of the situation,” he said.
Karachi police have reportedly sealed some major markets in the city for blatant violations of the COVID-19 guidelines set by the government before easing the lockdown.
According to a report, the crowded markets and shops in the busiest and most popular shopping areas including the famous Zainab Market were shut down after the shopkeepers failed to follow the safety protocols to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
The Sindh government has introduced an ordinance to ensure the implementation of the COVID-19 guidelines. According to the ordinance, those found violating standard operating procedures (SOPs) and other coronavirus lockdown restrictions will be slapped with a fine of Pak Rs1 million.
Italy, a developed country with a 98.85% literacy rate, introduced laws to stop people from coming outside their homes. According to the new laws, those who violate the containment measures could receive a fine of between €400 (£360) and €3,000 (£2,700); a significant increase from the previous maximum fine of €206 (£187).
In addition, anyone who has been quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19 and “intentionally violates” the order to stay in their home could face a prison sentence between one to five years, according to the decree.
Close several markets in Pakistan: Why is it necessary?
GVS approached Dr. Ahmed Usman, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore, to ask him as to why people don’t follow precautionary measures as advised by the government even during the time of a deadly pandemic. Dr. Ahmed, who holds a PhD in Sociology from University of Leeds, UK, believes that there can be following reasons behind these categorical violations of official SOPs: “Pakistan is a country with a dwindling economic situation,” says Dr. Usman, “bearing the burden of 24.3% of the people living under the poverty line”. He maintains that “this lockdown posed threats to the survival of poor by confining them in their homes and limiting their work routine”. “Apparently, this is the most obvious reason that compels people to violate the SOPs to ensure their survival and well-being,” he added.
He also noted that: “Pakistani society is generally considered as a traditional society whose fabric is woven with the threads of norms, values, and cultures that are mostly shaped up by the complex theological underpinnings. Societal norms encourage social gatherings and overwhelming ways to express care, grief, and sorrow. The patterns of greetings are further formed as per religious frameworks that yet again emphasizes on kindness, generosity, and warmth ensured through reducing the physical gap between people. Religious rituals including Ibadaat at Mosques and religious congregations are considered compulsory in Islam. With this kind of widespread belief system, people believe that while they are in a state of ablution, no disease can harm them.”
He also noted that “arguably, the belief system encourages them to violate the man-made rules of lockdown that they think are baseless and a conspiracy of enemies to weaken the connection between God and them. As lockdown restricts people from going to mosques and attending congregational prayers, it is considered an enemy’s tool to disconnect true Muslims from thy Lord.”