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On the first day of the lockdown, the city on Monday by and large wore a deserted look as citizens had already been told to stay indoors a day earlier.
A curfew-like situation was witnessed in the wee hours of Monday when police mobiles ran through the streets of the metropolis making the announcement of the lockdown. As the sun rose and birds took flight, a vast majority of the city had no worries about leaving for work. However, the staff of essential services, such as doctors, paramedical staff and media persons, made their ways to their workstations.
A little perturbed but determined to perform his duty, Asad, 27, started his motorcycle at his home in North Nazimabad to reach his office on II Chundrigar Road. Before leaving his home, he made sure that he had a mask on his face, gloves on hands and a sanitiser in his pocket.
“We media workers have no off, we have to be in office so that people could know what’s happening in and around the city,” he said. There was no public transport available in the lockdown as Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani, in an administrative order, had banned the movement of all the public transport such as buses, taxis and rickshaws and vehicles of ride-hailing services.
Almost all the petrol pumps remained open in the city on Monday but they had to attend to a very few vehicles as according to the commissioner’s order, they were not allowed to fill more than 10 litres of petrol in private vehicles to put a stop to panic buying. All the customer care centres and franchises of cellular companies were also closed.
Nazimabad DSP Pervez Akhtar Bangash allowed the staff of essential services to make their ways to their workstations until 11am after seeing their ID cards. “Early morning, genuine workers come out of their homes, hence we maintained a lenient approach,” he said and added that after 11am onlookers come out of their homes just to see the situation outside out of curiosity.
A family in a rickshaw was stopped at a checkpoint at the Golimar sanitary market. The rickshaw driver told police the family needed to go to a hospital, however, when the DSP gave him the permission to cross through after checking his identity card, the driver turned his vehicle and rushed to the Gulbahar area adjacent to the sanitary market.
A young man wearing the K-Electric uniform was allowed to pass through after verification. After him, came an old-timer on a motorcycle wearing a grey shalwar kameez, who informed DSP Bangash that he worked in a power plant nearby. When more details were asked, the old man could not respond and was asked to return.
Vigilant law enforcers
In Liaquatabad No 2, residents thronged a halwa puri shop in the morning. However, the shop was later shut down by the Sindh Rangers. Meanwhile, famous breakfast streets remained empty throughout the city.
Children and police continued to play hide and seek till late in the night as many kids were found having cricket matches and engaging in other games such kite flying. The police resorted to baton-charge in a few cases and at certain places made announcements on loudspeakers that the children must not play outside.
The police action would, however, only temporarily cause the children to go home. In many places, as soon as the police left the scene, the children gathered outside again.
Several individuals were nabbed by the police and freed after warnings. The situation was interesting for 10-year-old Hamza living near Nagan Chowrangi in North Karachi. He kept hanging at the balcony of his apartment, enjoying the silent streets and movement of police mobile vehicles. At around 5pm, he went down with his chachu [uncle] to get the first-hand experience of the complete lockdown.
While main roads such as University Road, Sharea Faisal, Shahrah-e-Pakistan, Rashid Minhas Road, Abul Hassan Isphani Road were cordoned off by the law enforcement agencies, the streets witnessed some activities.
On University Road, there were comparatively less checkpoints of the law enforcement agencies. Policemen were posted near the Nipa flyover and were allowing commuters to pass through after checking their ID cards.
Those who were not wearing masks and gloves were told by the police to get them immediately from near Samama as under the Samama flyover, the traffic police and Sindh police were distributing masks among the commuters. A washbasin was also established on the footpath for law enforcement agencies and passers-by by a private soap company.
Since superstores, vegetable markets, bakeries and meat shops were allowed to operate, many citizens were seen buying items of daily use. Most of the puncture shops remained close and only a few at CNG stations and petrol pumps were open.
222 more arrested
Despite the government’s clear orders due to the COVID-19 scare against opening schools, hoarding commodities, profiteering, holding large gatherings and unnecessarily leaving the house, at least 686 people have been arrested and 246 cases registered since Saturday in connection with the defying of the official instructions.
Karachi police chief Ghulam Nabi Memon told The News on Monday that following the announcement of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah regarding the lockdown across the province, a notification was issued by the home department that intimated the imposition of the Sindh Epidemic Diseases Act 2014 for 15 days.
Memon said that after receiving the orders from the provincial government, he had issued strict directives to his subordinates to ensure proper implementation of the official instructions.
They consisted of a complete ban on the movement of people, including inter-city and inter-provincial travelling, holding public or private gatherings for social, religious or any other purpose, and opening public or private offices situated within the territorial limits of the province.
The additional inspector general of police (Addl IGP) said that since the time of the first level of lockdown last week, the city’s law enforcement department had taken action against every violator of the government’s orders.
On Monday the police arrested 222 people for violating the government’s ban and registered 33 cases: 161 people were arrested and 13 cases registered in the South Range, 60 people were arrested and 19 cases registered in the East Range, and one person was arrested and one case registered in the West Range.
Earlier, in police crackdown against hoarders and profiteers, 61,805 surgical masks and 134 hand sanitisers were seized, with 44 people arrested and 26 cases registered.
Moreover, 183 people were arrested and 53 cases registered in connection with the opening of non-essential shops. Similarly, 140 people were arrested and 94 cases registered in connection with the opening of restaurants.
Fifty-three others were arrested and 14 cases registered in connection with the holding of large gatherings, while 25 people were arrested and 18 cases registered in connection with the opening of schools. Nineteen people were arrested and eight cases registered in connection with the plying of passenger buses.
Top cop’s request
The Addl IGP repeated his request to the citizens to obey the government’s orders against leaving their house unless it is an emergency. He warned them that if they were to violate the ban, they would be dealt with in accordance with the law.
Memon said that exception was granted by the government only to media persons, those providing health services like hospitals, laboratories and medical stores, people who are part of the law enforcement agencies and implementing the government’s orders, and persons and offices providing essential services.
He said that people in need of medical care, with an attendant where necessary, and those who have to buy groceries or medicines are also allowed to leave their houses.
Unavoidable religious rites like funerals, burials and related events are also allowed if all precautions against the spread of the disease are taken, including observing a safe distance of three feet between family members and other people gathered in small numbers after prior intimation to the area’s SHO, added the top cop.
The police chief said the area’s SDPO would supervise and, as and when necessary, provide additional force for ensuring that the government’s order is complied with, and any exemption that may be deemed necessary by the government.
He explained that according to the government notification, the following conditions would apply to the persons given exemption to travel in single number in vehicle but may carry one more as attendant in case there is some medical emergency; one person per family may go out to buy essential medicines, groceries, etc. with a driver only in the case of the elderly or the handicapped.
Persons in vehicles carrying essential food items, such as products from mills or factories, medicines, medical equipment with only helper and cleaner allowed in the vehicle, with no passenger allowed in such vehicles; persons so travelling and coming out as exempted are to carry valid ID card, CNIC or official card or an authority letter duly signed and stamped by the head.
They are further required to travel and gather at work keeping in view the social distance of three feet (one metre) and take safety precautions against the spread of coronavirus.
The essential services exempted from the ban include health and related services like hospitals, medical stores, laboratories and manufacturers; food and related industries, manufacturers, grocery stores, and general and convenience stores; fish and meat sellers; fruit and vegetable vendors and dairy shops.
The essential municipal services include electricity, gas, water (including supply by water tankers where essential), sewerage, port operations, the Pakistan National Shipping Corporation and customs services.
They also include the Pakistan Telecommunication Authority, the Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited and the National Telecom Corporation service staff, cellular service companies’ service staff for repair and maintenance of towers and cables, banks (with limited staff for services), petrol pumps, and welfare organisations providing essential services.