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March 14, 2020

Fear of coronavirus causes less footfall at shopping malls and restaurants

Pakistan

March 14, 2020

As the federal and provincial governments announced measures to prevent coronavirus from spreading in the country, prudence was also observed in the general behaviour of the public on Friday as a significant drop in footfall was seen at shopping malls, eateries and supermarkets across the city.

Many people avoided going outdoors, which was evident from empty seats at fast food outlets and deserted shopping malls that otherwise would be found overcrowded in normal circumstances.

Hand sanitisers also ran out at most of the superstores in the city due to panic buying. One of the biggest shopping malls of the city at Sea View, which also a houses a famous superstore seemed to be deserted on Friday evening.

The food court of the mall has the capacity to hold more than 1,600 individuals at a time, which according to one of the floor in-charge is always filled to capacity on Fridays, did not even had 40 per cent of the seats occupied.

“Since morning, we aren’t witnessing large number of people visiting the mall,” the official of the mall told The News on condition of anonymity. The reason for this seemed to him the fear of contracting coronavirus.

There were only six hand sanitisers available at the superstore. The salesgirl, who was wearing gloves, shared how since Thursday there had been massive purchase of the liquid hand-cleaner. “All the pocket sanitisers have already been sold,” she said.

A lone young man at the mall purchasing grains shared that his family had already bought the monthly ration but he was there to purchase more as they wanted to stock necessary food items.

“In case of the virus outbreak, we have to have food items available at home,” he said and shared that he had both kids and old-timers at his home and was gearing up for any emergency situation.

A famous fast food restaurant at Sea View also had very low footfall on Friday evening. One of the managers told The News that generally on weekends, which start Fridays, the restaurant teems with people. “Today the footfall is extremely low,” the manager said.

Yusra Saleem, a resident of Nazimabad, went to a branch of Imtiaz Supermarket at around 5pm. “There weren’t any queues at cash counter. Generally it takes me three hours to buy rations, but today I got free in mere half an hour,” she said and shared how she observed panic buying of the sanitisers. “It seemed like people made their visit to the superstore just to buy hand sanitisers.”

Meanwhile, Samin Salman, who was in a mall on Tariq Road on Friday evening, was surprised by the lower turnout of shoppers. “When I reached the mall, I realised that people haven’t made their way to the shopping malls due to the fear of coronavirus,” she said.

Speaking to The News, Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani said they had issued an advisory to all the shopping malls of the city for adopting preventive measures against coronavirus. As for the closure of the malls, he said no such order had been issued as yet, however, if need be, such orders would be issued.

The cinemas and wedding halls of the city are also likely to be closed from today onwards as Special assistant to Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza ordered on Friday the closure of all the cinemas and wedding halls in the country for two weeks.