Markets may face closure over SOPs breach: minister

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10 site offices of illegal housing schemes sealed

LAHORE:The Punjab government is considering closing markets, shopping malls and standalone shops as traders, business community and general public are not complying with Covid-19 SOPs.

The authorities concerned are inspecting shopping areas and sealing stores and shops on violation of SOPs. However, the government is unable to close down shops in markets such as Anarkali, Ichra, Shah Alam and others due to trade unions’ pressure.

Traders only place notice on their shops that people without masks would not be allowed to enter the shops, but in practical they and their workers were not using masks and in this way they could not ask their customers to use masks.

National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) on October 22 had warned that the country was fast approaching a point where there will be ‘no choice’ left but to impose another sweeping lockdown.

“NCOC is closely monitoring the situation. If there is no improvement in observing SOPs, NCOC will have no choice but to revert to strict measures leading to re-closures of services,” a statement issued by the body.

The government officials said the traders were being asked to implement SOPs in their respective markets. They said the government did not want to halt businesses again, but the second wave of pandemic was on the rise. In order to engage traders and business community, minister for industries, commerce and trade Aslam Iqbal Wednesday held a meeting with the representatives of trade associations at the Civil Secretariat. The meeting discussed the implementation on Covid-19 SOPs and working hours of the markets. The minister informed the traders’ representatives that they should take precautionary measures to stop the spread the Covid-19. The trade association should ensure implementation of SOPs in their respective markets. The traders and shops staff should also wear masks and do not serve any customer without masks.

‘The government forced to take strict measures including shutting down of the markets if covid-19 SOPs violated in any market”, he said, adding he will visit the markets to review the implementation of SOPs. The minister said the government does not want to stop trade activities, but trade organisations should take precautionary measures.

If the business continues, the economy will flourish. The Punjab government has made recommendations regarding opening of marriage halls to NCOC. If the marriage halls do not implement SOPs, they will be sealed. Hotels and restaurants are bound to abide by the working hours given by the government, the minister warned. The representatives of the traders, including president PTI Traders wing central Punjab Haji Muhammad Khalid, president PTI traders wing Pakistan Haji Tahir Naveed, President PTI traders wing Lahore Mian Tariq Feroze and officials of other organisations, attended the meeting and unanimously asked the government for eliminating encroachments from markets. They were agreed to support the government on removal of encroachments. They said the government would fully implement the SOPs, but business should not be closed.

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