LAHORE - In anticipation of an unusual public rush to the markets and tourist places before and after the upcoming Eid festival, the Punjab government on Monday notified enforcement of lockdown for nine days to contain the spread of COVID-19.

It shall remain in force from July 28 (Tuesday) to August 5 (Wednesday midnight). The decision to enforce the lockdown on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha has been taken in the light of the federal government’s directives and in view of the foreseeable enhanced shopping activities in the markets before Eid-ul-Azha.

According to a notification issued by Primary and Secondary Health Care Department, all markets, shopping malls, marriage halls, restaurants (Except takeaway and home delivery), all educational and training institutes, business centres, amusement and public parks, beauty parlours, Spas, cinemas and theatres shall remain closed for nine days. Also, there shall be a complete ban on gatherings of all kinds for social, religious or any other purpose at any place, public or private.

However, medical stores, grocery stores, transport and essential offices would remain open during the lockdown.

Decision to this effect was taken during a meeting of the cabinet committee on coronavirus chaired by Provincial Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Social Welfare Raja Basharat.

“The purpose of the lockdown is that we are close to defeating Covid-19 and the number of virus cases should not increase again”, Raja Basharat said while addressing the meeting.

Provincial Ministers Dr. Yasmeen Rashid, Mian Aslam Iqbal and Fayyaz ul Hassan Chohan, Chief Secretary Punjab, Additional Chief Secretary Home, Additional IG, Secretary to CM, SMBR, Secretary Specialized Health, Secretary Primary Health, CCPO and Heads of relevant departments were also present at the meeting.

Raja Basharat said that this decision had been taken keeping in view the experience of Eid-ul-Fitr due to which the cases of coronavirus had suddenly hiked. He said that the steps taken by Chief Minister Usman Bazdar and Punjab government to reduce coronavirus cases in the province were commendable.

He warned that stern action would be taken against those who were causing artificial inflation on the occasion of Eid.

“Ensure implementation of SOPs for Eid-ul-Adha prayers and sacrificial gatherings.” He further said that after Eid, the Punjab government would recommend the NCOC for opening of restaurants and hotels.

Earlier, in a briefing of the health department, the meeting was informed that the number of coronavirus victims in Punjab was declining and there had not been a single death from coronavirus  in the last 24 hours in the province.

Meanwhile, the government’s decision to enforce lockdown four days ahead of the Eid festival has evoked strong protest from the trader community. A good number of traders led by their respective union leaders came out on roads and demanded revision of the lockdown decision. The traders at Anarkali bazar resented the decision saying it would affect their business in a big way.

Also, an unusual shopping activity was observed at different markets following the announcement of the decision. Many shoppers complained that they would not be able to do complete shopping for their kids owing to an abrupt decision by the government.

Lockdown policy proved successful: USMAN BBUZDAR

Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar Monday said that the smart lockdown policy employed by Prime Minister Imran Khan had proved successful in overcoming the spread of coronavirus and the world had also acknowledged the steps taken by the Pakistani government.

In a statement issued here on Monday, the chief minister stated that smart lockdown had yielded the best results. “The number of patients has been sufficiently decreased in hospitals. The opponents of this policy should look into their own peep. Unluckily, the opposition parties tried to sow jangling discords even on the issue of coronavirus. It is sanguine that the spread of this virus has been controlled due to effective measures used by the government”, he observed.

Usman Buzdar emphasized that people should celebrate Eidul Azha with simplicity and follow SOPs on this blessed day. Public cooperation was very important and they should ensure continuous observance of SOPs besides maintaining social distancing because they would remain safe by following necessary precautions, the CM added.