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Saturday December 04, 2021

Punjab, KP seal shops for flouting SOPs

June 05, 2020

ISLAMABAD: Dozens of shops were sealed in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa hours after Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Political Communication Dr Shahbaz Gill hinted on Thursday that several large marketplaces would be shuttered across the country for violating standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The crackdowns coincided with Pakistan recording its highest number of Covid-19 cases in a 24-hour-period, with 4,688 new infections and 82 deaths, according to numbers released by the government. The latest surge in Covid-19 cases takes the nation-wide tally to 86,931, while the death toll has risen to 1,790.

The strict enforcement of SOPs — in PTI-ruled provinces — is a break from Prime Minister Imran Khan’s oft-repeated mantra of avoiding using force against the people to enforce the lockdown as he opted to further reopen the economy.

Gill said the markets had been found flouting SOPs, and an operation in this regard had begun initiated in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-ruled Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. In a related development, the Punjab government said it would take immediate action over violation of SOPs in Lahore, Multan, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Gujrat.

More than two dozen shops were sealed in Sialkot and 10 in Multan at the time of this report, and heavy fines were levied according to state media.

At least 114 shops were sealed in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu district. The district administration said a fine of Rs30,000 would be imposed on shopkeepers found guilty of flouting SOPs and their shops would be sealed.

Authorities in Peshawar sealed several markets — including shopping malls — as well as shops while the managers of 18 fuel stations were arrested over the violations of the official guidelines. A press release said at least 385 people have been arrested for flouting guidelines so far. The PTI-aligned Balochistan government also sealed two private banks in Quetta for flouting the government’s social distancing advice.

The decisions were taken in a meeting of the Punjab Cabinet Committee on Corona, chaired by Senior Punjab Minister Abdul Aleem Khan at the Chief Minister’s House, here on Thursday.

Meanwhile, the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) said the coronavirus testing target of 30,000 tests per day was reached in the country, and credited its test, trace and quarantine (TTQ) strategy for the milestone.

Separately, Sindh raised alarm over the Centre’s new policy in which overseas Pakistanis would be sent straight home to isolate after having their tests conducted. The provincial health department voiced concern that returning passengers would meet their relatives and friends, which could increase transmission of the virus. The health department said by allowing these passengers to go home without obtaining their results first could lead to a surge in the coronavirus cases.—News Desk/Agencies