QUETTA: The Balochistan government decided on Friday to convert the lockdown into a ‘smart lockdown’, allowing the business community to resume activities from Monday across the province.
The provincial government had announced extension of the lockdown for two more weeks, but traders’ organisations rejected the announcement and announced opening of shops and markets after May 9 without waiting for any government approval, saying they had already suffered losses of millions of rupees.
The decision was announced after talks between a team of government officials and traders’ representatives.
The government team comprised provincial minister Mir Saleem Ahmed Khosa, parliamentary leader Asghar Khan Achakzai, Quetta deputy commissioner retired Major Aurangzeb Badini and leaders of Anjuman Tajran Balochistan.
The meeting discussed details of smart lockdown and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).
Later, members of the government team and representatives of provincial traders’ organisations announced details of the smart lockdown and SOPs agreed upon by the government and traders at a joint press conference.
According to the agreement reached between the government and traders, smart lockdown would apply across the province from Monday and under it shops and business activities would remain open from 3am till 5pm and this practice would continue till Eidul Fitr, representatives of the government and traders’ union announced at a joint news conference.
Under the agreement, all restaurants, tailors’ shops, medical stores and hairdressers’ saloons and shops would stay open for 24 hours across the province.
The government requested the traders’ representatives to ensure strict implementation of SOPs.
“Only four customers will be allowed to enter shops at a time and the Balochistan government will strictly monitor implementation of the smart lockdown,” provincial minister Saleem Khosa said, adding that the government would take action against those found violating the SOPs.
“We have been easing the lockdown in tough circumstances as Covid-19 cases are rising in the province and the smart lockdown will continue till Eidul Fitr,” the government officials said.
“The government and traders’ representatives will decide the future strategy if cases of coronavirus keep rising,” an official said.
The President of Anjuman-i-Tajran Balochistan, Mr Rahim Kakar, said that traders and businessmen had suffered losses of millions of rupees because of the lockdown over the last two months. But in the national interest “we accepted the closure of our businesses for this long period to prevent the spread of cases of coronavirus in the province”.
The traders urged the government to open sealed shops during the smart lockdown.
Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2020