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Pakistan Reader# 106, 12 May 2020

Smart Lockdown, SOPs vs Social Realities


Smart lockdown needs smarter governments and stronger SOPs. Else, the Second Wave will be staggering.

D. Suba Chandran
International Strategic and Security Studies Programme (ISSSP)
National Institute of Advanced Studies (NIAS), Bangalore

As a part of Imran Khan’s decision to ease the lockdown, markets across Pakistan opened on Monday. The government expected that the people and vendors would follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued by the government, as a part of “Smart Lockdown”. Available news and images on what had happened on Monday highlight an impending disaster.

Traffic was high on the roads. Markets were full of people. Social distancing was dumped as a result.

Expecting social distancing in traditional South Asian markets is asking for the moon. Unlike the huge new malls in the big cities, traditional markets and the shopping complexes of the 1990s and 2000s – are narrow lanes, with no space for people to maintain any distance. While cities like Karachi and Lahore may have new malls, but for regular provisions, people would be visiting the local markets.

People cannot be blamed. South Asians across the region are like this. The government should have expected it. Leading newspapers and analysts warned the decision to open sooner and leave the COVID fighting in the hands of the people would backfire. However, the government would not listen. Though Imran may say that he has eased the restrictions keeping in mind the miseries and starvation of poor and daily wage earners, it may be this very segment, that may now face the brunt.

His decision was political and perhaps economic, and not based on scientific grounds.

Dawn, in its editorial, reported, “the situation is already serious, and the reports from hospitals and doctors suggest that the situation will get worse. According to the Sindh health minister, there is a sharp increase in the number of patients “after every half an hour”, and the number of beds in high-dependency units across hospitals in the province are running short.” (Editorial, "A worrying gamble," Dawn)

Smart lockdown needs smarter governments and stronger SOPs. Else, the Second Wave will be staggering.

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