The rising pressure to lift the lockdown is real, but will there be any winners
Karachi: The Sindh Tajir Ittehad announced on April 14 that they will reopen their businesses from April 15. The decision was announced by the Chairmain of STI, Jamil Paracha during an interview on a popular talk show.
Speaking to the host, Paracha said 28 days had passed since the markets were closed. Millions of employees have barely been paid a month’s salary and traders are now forced to borrow money from each other, he mentioned.
He further stated that if the government restricts them from resuming business, they will protest outside the Chief Minister house. On the other hand, on April 13 the business community in Punjab also demanded to open markets from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm.
In the wake of these demands, both the federal and Sindh government announced that some businesses will be allowed to resume as far as they adhere to the government set SOPs. The lockdown was also announced to be extended for an additional two weeks.
However, the Sindh government’s spokesperson reported on April 15 that no shops will be allowed to reopen and the province will follow the same measures that were imposed earlier.
But is a relaxation in the government-imposed lockdown going to benefit the traders’ community?
While some essential businesses will be allowed to reopen, many will remain shut. These include but are not limited to stationery and book dealers or dry-cleaning services.
With the closure of academic institutions till the end of May and a mounting financial strain on many households even the above mentioned products are a luxury. Families are likely to spend on immediate needs such as food than pursue dry-cleaning services.
Moreover, reopening of any business at a time when there is a potential lack of purchasing power will only add to the cost of running the business such as utility bills and other miscellaneous expenses. It is therefore unlikely that the traders’ community is going to benefit at large with the ease in lockdown effective from today.
The Real Cost of Relaxing Lockdown Measures
By allowing some businesses to function during government set hours could potentially risk an increase in the number of positive cases of the virus. Social distancing is yet to be completely practiced in most localities in the country and reopening of businesses or small shops will attract more people to work in close proximity.
According to the latest reports, there have been 6,383 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Pakistan. These numbers have been said to be understated due to reasons that include asymptomatic patients, limited number of test kits and patients who end up going to small clinics in their communities for check-ups.
These clinics either refuse to take the patients or are not equipped to treat a COVID-19 patient.
Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah recently reported that over 100 bodies brought to Civil Hospital Karachi had lung damage similar to that of a COVID-19 patient, according to the doctors who examined them.
In such a scenario an ease in lockdown measures can adversely affect the economy and put a strain on our health system if the number of cases go up.
While the spokesperson of the Sindh government has announced that the province will practice the same measures of a lockdown as before, will the federal follow suit?