With Eid-ul-Azha only weeks away, the government has announced its policies on animal markets in Islamabad and asked for strict adherence. The most important of these is relocating the markets to outside the city, from two to five kilometres beyond Islamabad. But alongside this, there is also focus on adhering to the standard operating procedures such as wearing masks and maintaining distance.

Worryingly however, these strict measures are only announced in the capital; it is unclear what is to be the fate of animal markets throughout the rest of the country. There are some positive examples such as Attock, where a purpose-built animal market has finally become operational. Separate stalls, mechanisms for regular fumigation and the provision of clean food and water make this market safer than others, where separation and distance can be implemented.

But for others, there does not seem to be a clear strategy in play. Provincial authorities in Punjab have announced that Lahore will not host any animal markets, but is there a plan in place to implement this policy? What about other cities? How will the government ensure that any animal markets set up in violation of state policy do not become hotbeds for the virus?

Experiences from Eid-ul-Fitr should make us collectively realise how sensitive this time period can be for the spread of the disease. We will be looking at a predictable mess if this is not handled in time; and with just a few weeks to go before Eid, there are already several reports of SOP violations at animal markets in various regions.

We can only hope that the public has learnt some lesson from last Eid’s spread, and will exercise some modicum of caution. The government on its part, cannot continue to absolve itself of all blame—if there is a rise in cases after this Eid, it must be treated as a failure across the board.