Sindh govt too imposes Eid lockdown in province
Policemen on horses patrol a beach after restrictions were imposed on amusement parks and tourist places as a preventive measure against the spread of the Covid-19 coronavirus in Karachi.–AFP
The lockdown began affecting travel and tourist hotspots in a bid to prevent a surge in Covid-19 cases during Eidul Fitr holidays.
According to the provincial government’s notification, all businesses will remain shut from May 9 to May 16, Eid holidays. Many shoppers who weren’t sure of the Sindh government’s resorting to complete lockdown and expected to do the shopping for Eid in the last week of Ramazan, have been left in the lurch.
According to the notification, all markets will remain closed. However, milk and yogurt shops will remain open till 12 midnight. But the shops of essential commodities like grocery stores, vegetable, fruit and meat shops and restaurants will be allowed to operate till 6pm.
As per the NCOC decision, large markets, shopping plazas and entertainment venues will remain closed until May 16. Cloth markets, shoe markets and salon shops are facing closure.
The closing of mehndi or henna stalls means there would be no traditional celebration of chand-raat (a night before the Eidul Fitr) this time.
However, as per the directions of NCOC, grocery stores, tandoors, milk-sellers, meat shops and fruit and vegetable shops will be open until 6pm in all three provinces of Punjab, Balochistan and KP.
For the convenience of the people, the State Bank has directed commercial banks to remain open on Mondays and Tuesdays so that people could not face any problem in money transaction ahead of Eid.
Already battling a third wave of infections and increasingly nervous about the crisis across the border in India, the Pakistan government has imposed the most severe restrictions since a one-month lockdown in April last year.
"These measures have been necessitated by the extremely dangerous situation which has been created in the region with the spread of virulent mutations of the virus," tweeted Federal Planning Minister Asad Umar, who has been leading the government response to the outbreak.
Eid usually sees the mass movement of people around the country and tourist spots crowded with Pakistanis. Last year the country saw a spike in cases in the weeks after the celebrations.
The military has been mobilised to monitor the restrictions.
Mosques, however, which have been packed each night throughout Ramazan -- with few people wearing masks -- will remain open.
Pakistan has recorded more than 850,000 infections and over 18,900 deaths, but with limited testing and a ramshackle healthcare sector, many fear the true extent of the disease is much worse.
Health officials have warned that hospitals are operating at close to capacity and they have rushed to increase the number of intensive care beds.
International flights have been slashed and border crossings with Iran and Afghanistan closed, except for trade.
Flights and land crossings with neighbouring India -- reeling from a devastating outbreak with hundreds of thousands of new cases a day -- were closed before the pandemic because of political tensions.
Pakistan, which has so far vaccinated only a fraction of its population, received its first batch of 1.2 million AstraZeneca doses Saturday under the delayed Covax global vaccine sharing scheme.
With inputs from AFP.