Traders all over Punjab have not taken kindly to the provincial government’s decision of imposing a lockdown till August 5, in anticipation of Eid. The government clearly remembers the spike in cases due to Eid-ul-Fitr and is adamant on not repeating previous mistakes.

However, traders’ unions all over Pakistan—even beyond Punjab—look to be unfazed by the prospect of rising infections, and came out in protest or defied the lockdown outright. Resultantly, police in Faisalabad baton-charged retailers at various markets in the city on Tuesday, thereby handing an excuse to the traders to stay on the streets.

But Faisalabad is not alone in defiance of a sensible government policy. Traders in Lahore, Rawalpindi and other cities in the province continue to open their businesses with the usual volume of customers visiting.

Pakistan can still count itself fortunate when comparing death rates and infections to countries such as the US and India. With our population figures and the way the graph was climbing after the last Eid, it is still surprising that infections have started to decrease. But with close to 6000 deaths since late February, there is no doubt that the Punjab government is acting wisely in its attempts to keep crowds to a minimum before Eid this time.

The displeasure of retailers can be chalked up to the fact that, under normal circumstances, Eid season brings about a customary boom in sales. But profits cannot be prioritised when public health is at stake. The government needs to enforce its writ in the coming days, but using the police to violently send people home is not the answer.

Moving forward, all violators must be dealt with, but only in accordance with the law. Fines against traders flouting the lockdown must be levied considering imprisonment is not the answer, nor is advisable under the circumstances. All traders must cooperate with the government over the next week. The economy suffered a grievous setback when the pandemic hit home in early-March—these next few days are certainly manageable in comparison.