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Traders draw up plan to resume businesses in Punjab from 10th

LAHORE: Traders on Sunday finalised a plan for opening shops in Lahore and other cities and towns in Punjab from May 10 if the government further extends the lockdown.

The SOPs which are set to be presented by the representatives of the trader bodies to the Punjab government on Monday (today) have been finalised keeping in view necessary precautionary measures to avert spread of Covid-19.

“Since we have unanimously agreed in our meeting on Saturday to open shops across the province from May 10 in case of further extension of the lockdown, we have finalised comprehensive SOPs which will be helpful in ensuring safe business activities,” All Pakistan Anjuman Tajran General Secretary Naeem Mir told Dawn on Sunday.

“If you see the routine activities in the city, there is already no lockdown. Only the shops and small business centres which must be opened ahead of Eid are closed. The rest of the businesses (factories, offices, mills, construction etc) are going on as usual,” he claimed.

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Office-bearers and representatives of more than 100 markets at a Traders Consultative Conference hosted by the Lahore Chamber of Commerce & Industry on Saturday had urged the government to open markets and small industries immediately as the lockdown had become a nuisance for them. They said the traders were going through a very tough time and were on the verge of bankruptcy due to prolonged lockdown and suspension of trade activities.

They argued that if businesses could be opened in the USA, Italy, Spain, Germany and many other countries with certain precautions, why it could not be done in Pakistan. It’s a season for businesses, they said, and the government would have to open all trade and industries with SOPs.

The traders would be compelled to open their markets/shops from May 10 if the government persisted with the lockdown, they said. They also prepared a charter of demand.

Mr Mir said the government had yet to come up with a positive response to their demands. “They have not asked us to finalise the SOPs for opening shops and we have done this on our own,” he said.

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According to the SOPs, the trader bodies would launch an awareness campaign by displaying banners and posters inscribed with messages related to coronavirus precautionary measures. The local administrations too should launch similar awareness campaigns.

“There will be no Iftar party in any market to avoid gatherings. And those who will do this, their shops will be closed by the unions,” reads a draft of the SOPs. All retail shops, grocery stores and food shops would remain open round the clock just as was the case of medical stores.

Moreover, only one customer would be allowed to enter the shop at a time. Those standing outside the shops would wait in circles marked for having social distancing. Similarly, the customers without masks or those suffering from flu, cough etc would not be allowed to enter shops.

The shops employees / workers would not be allowed to take lunch or dinner together. The common washrooms in the markets would be kept neat and clean with availability of soaps, water, sanitisers and tissues. Moreover, the mosques in the markets would also ensure social distancing during prayer timings. The government / city admin may also provide container washrooms for the visitors in the markets.

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“I think that opening shops round the clock will be helpful in avoiding rush of customers. Moreover, if the government wants anything more to do, we are ready to do so,” he said while requesting the government to announce opening shops on its own to avoid confrontation with the traders.

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