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Traders insist Karachi markets can function with social distancing

SAMAA | - Posted: Apr 6, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 months ago
Posted: Apr 6, 2020 | Last Updated: 2 months ago
Traders insist Karachi markets can function with social distancing

Pakistani soldiers wearing facemasks, stand guard on a deserted street during a lockdown after Sindh province government announced the closing of markets, public places and ban large gatherings amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus, in Karachi on March 23, 2020. Photo: AFP

We will not entertain any silly queries and requests from traders at this moment, said Murtaza Wahab, advisor to the chief minister Sindh responding to complaints from trade associations that want to keep shops open.

The advisor’s irritation can well be understood. The Sindh government has been enforcing a province-wide lockdown since March 24 in a desperate bid to stop the spread of coronavirus. It ordered all shops and markets to stay closed till April 14.

For the most part, traders were compliant. “Corona is a global curse and not something the government has done,” said All Karachi Tajir Ittehad president Ateeq Mir. He added, however, that they felt it was in everyone’s best interest to allow traders to go back to business if they strictly abide by official advisories. “We can ensure social distancing and proper sanitization of our shops and workers.”

As pressure mounted from the business sector, the Sindh government met Sunday to come up with an SOP so the export sector could at least function. It said in a statement that the meeting was held on the “request of industrialists to allow their units to start operations to meet export orders.” The meeting was attended by, among others, Murtaza Wahab and Commissioner Karachi Iftikhar Shallwani. Wahab said that the meeting was for the export sector alone and he declined to answer any query about traders and their reservations. He said that the economic slowdown was taking place but the health crisis was bigger.

For his part, Shallwani said that if the industries followed the SOPs they would be allowed to operate soon. “Traders must also follow strict protocols but they will only be allowed after April 14.”

The Karachi Electronic Dealers Association had asked the government to make an exception for them. KEDA claims to represent ten thousand electronics sellers and a number of unions. But after an emergency meeting on Monday, even they came to the conclusion that they would wait until April 14 to re-open.

KEDA president Muahammad Rizwan had said before the meeting that, “The shopkeepers will not listen to me anymore. Their patience is wearing thin.” When SAMAA Money asked Wahab about this comment, he responded by saying that each individual wants to come up with their own ideas on what to do but “that’s not how governments are run”.

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