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Shops, bazaars continue flouting social distancing protocol in Lahore

Shops, bazaars continue flouting social distancing protocol in Lahore

LAHORE: Despite imposition of Section 144, shops and bazaars are still not completely following guidelines regarding social distancing and other safety protocols. Most shops continue accommodating more than five people at a time in violation of Section 144 while not checking personal protective equipment.

The stores, including both high-end retail stores located in the areas like Gulberg, DHA, Johar Town, government-run bazaars and utility stores and neighbourhood stores, are following no safety precautions whatsoever.

Shoppers were seen at one of the bazaars in Township milling around on Sunday without much distance from each other while some of them were not even wearing face masks or gloves. A couple of them said they felt safe as the bazaar was ‘open air’ and, therefore, ventilated.




In Kotha Pind Bazaar, Faisal Town, the market was as usual unhygienic with butcher shops open from 9am to 5pm but some of the larger stores in the area had taken some safety measures.

“We are following government directives and allowing the people inside only if they wear masks and gloves,” said a store manager.

At the same time, in Johar Town not a single store, including some bakeries, are following the guidelines.

“Initially, the situation was better when hand sanitisers was being used at the entrance but now everything is lax,” said a customer, Muhammad Younus.

“Neither the temperature is being checked, nor are the hands being sanitised. The presence of gloves and masks are also not being checked,” he bemoaned.

Haider, a resident of Allah Hoo Chowk, Johar Town, said that in most stores and shops, there was no concept of face masks – something surprising since there had been so many deaths and Covid-19 cases emerging every day.

Shahzad, a resident of Faisal Town, said there was also blatant flouting of rules, especially by smaller stores.

“Groceries are being delivered even after 5pm, even though that is the cutoff time,” he said. “I myself have observed this.”

The markets in DHA have had mixed reactions to lockdown protocols.

According to some reports, in Phase 6 of the DHA, while there are proper queues outside and only a few people are allowed inside stores but once inside, there is a different story altogether. “Most people are not wearing masks, they stand close to each other and at the same time, the people who are not even wearing gloves pick up products and then place them back on the shelves,” complains Naima.

Hasan, also a resident of Phase 6, said many stores in the DHA did not have the people behind the cash counter wearing masks or gloves. However, in most stores, guards who stood outside had sanitisers for the customers entering the building and in some stores, thermal checks were being done on entrance.

Shops in DHA Phase 1 (H Block Market) were seen following some guidelines while flouting others. In a store, salespersons were seen wearing masks but not gloves. At the counter, they had lined up gallon water bottles in order to keep shoppers at a distance.

The same chain store’s Gulberg branch was reported on Monday to have had two positive cases. The DHA branch, however, was crowded with no social distancing despite the limited area inside and no hand sanitizers available. The manager said that they had been using one brand for customers but since brand had been declared unfit by the government, the store has not been using anything.

A shop in Model Town was allowing people to enter only after sanitising their hands but was ironically fully crowded inside.

Sarmad from the PCSIR Phase 2 said that the stores in his area were following all the regulations but the customers were flouting.

“They don’t carry masks, there is no sense of distancing and if you ask them to maintain distance, they get offended,” he lamented. “The shopkeepers can’t do much.”

Hiba said the public should be more responsible and everything should not be left to the shopkeepers.

“More people should start going for buying grocery in the morning as there are fewer shoppers around then,” she said and added that her recent experience in one of the stores was quite upsetting as there was absolutely no social distancing and trolleys were crowding at aisle intersections.

“People were jostling me to sneak ahead in line because I was trying to maintain some semblance of a distance,” she expressed surprise. “However, the staff was all gloved and masked, dispensing sanitizer at the entrance.”

It is not just private shops and stores that are flouting rules but the situation is same in government run makeshift bazaars and Utility Stores. There is no distancing, no masks worn by most vendors, staff and shopkeepers.

In one of the model bazaars in Johar Town near LDA Office, and the Utility Store in front of Nishat Emporium, there were crowds and crowds of people shopping.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2020

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