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‘Shops to open till 8pm’: Sindh lifts COVID-19 lockdown restrictions

People shop at a market in Karachi. — AFP/Files

While lifting coronavirus restrictions in the province, Sindh on Monday issued a list of guidelines for various establishments to follow once they reopen to the public as well as precautions for everyone.

The move comes after the federal government had decided to lift the coronavirus lockdown gradually, in the light of decreasing infections.

In a notification issued Monday by the Sindh government’s Home Department following decisions made by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) and National Coordination Committee (NCC), the provincial authorities warned that “the disease is still prevalent and likely to increase if no adequate precautions are taken”.

What’s open and what’s still closed

As per the notification, sports clubs and facilities and gyms may open for non-contact sports, while indoor and outdoor tournament may be held but without spectators. The coronavirus-related standard operating procedures (SOPs) must strictly be followed.

Hotels, restaurants, and cafes, including takeaway and home delivery, as well as home catering services will also open on August 10, 2020. The same goes for parks and grounds, beauty parlours and spas, cinemas and theatres, gatherings at shrines (subject to permission and licenses), tourism and tourist hotels, and public transport.

The coronavirus-related standard operating procedures (SOPs) must strictly be followed.

Social clubs, with SOPs as applicable to the respective permissible activities, may also open.

However, educational and training institutes, marriage halls, and business and exhibition centres will be allowed to open on September 15, 2020.

Divisional and deputy commissioners, their authorised government functionaries, and the heads of law enforcement agencies would hold mandatory meetings “with the representative Association / owners of businesses and ‘Gaddi-Nasheen’ / ‘Mutawali’ of shrines managed by private persons to ensure that these activities are opened with due focus on SOPs”.

Work days and timings

All business and establishments may open six days a week (with one day off) except pharmacies and essential services. Their timings were set from 6am to 8pm, except Saturday when they may remain open till 9pm.

Restaurant and cafes may open all days of the week. However, it was advised that this may be done strictly in line with the SOPs and the following conditions.

Dine-in would be open from morning to 10pm, with the last order or customer to be allowed maximum by 9pm. On Saturdays, however, the timing for dine-in was set from morning to 11pm, with the last order or customer to be allowed maximum by 10pm.

Takeaway food has been allowed to open morning to 10pm, Sunday through Friday. On Saturdays, however, the time to close was set for 11pm.

Home deliveries will be open from morning till midnight (12am).

Moreover, the government of Sindh stressed that “the disease has decreased but is not over yet” and that “any carelessness is likely to cause an increase in the spread”. Prevention was the only measure against the disease until the time a cure or vaccine became available, it warned.

“It is further reiterated that the above-listed activities carry a high risk of spread therefore strict adherence to SOPS is required,” the government added, underlining that any violation would mean those in charge would be held accountable.

Guidelines for all businesses and establishments were as follows:

  • Avoid all places with potential of crowding and, where absolutely essential to attend, strictly observe wearing of face mask, hand hygiene and social distancing protocols
  • Wearing of Face Masks is mandatory whenever coming out to any public place. (Mask can be taken off at permitted eating places for the duration of meals and put-on back again earliest)
  • Keeping distance of over 3 feet between persons (customers / staff / visitors) at all times
  • Frequent hand washing or use of proper hand sanitizes by customers / visitors / staff
  • Screening of staff / visitors / customers with thermal guns
  • Owner / Manager / In charge of business concern / facility shall be responsible to ensure provision of all required facilities / measures, masks, hand washing facilities and hand sanitizers
  • Staff / Service providers to be COVID tested initially and then regularly screened on daily basis
  • Entry / service to symptomatic (fever, cough or flu like symptoms) is to be denied
  • Customers / visitors are to be denied entry/service who are not wearing face masks
  • Since many of these activities involve gathering of many people at any point in time, recourse to online / telephonic interaction be used as much as is possible
  • Advance booking / appointment is to be used to avoid rush
  • Queuing with marks on floor and direction boards / signs are to be deployed with separate / timed entry and exit of staff / customers / visitors.
  • Where seating arrangement is involved it is to be ensured that seating is at a distance of over three feet between the occupy. Wherever fixed seats are installed then clear marking, placement of appropriate objects to indicate its unavailability should be ensured
  • All the closed spaces should have the limited number of persons allowed inside, under COVID protocols for distancing (i.e the capacity calculated while ensuring that the occupants of that space will be maintaining distance of over three feet between them all the time) which comes to around 1/3rd of normal capacity shall be displayed prominently at the entrance and no extra person allowed inside at any cost. (Businesses / concerns / shrines with spaces / halls / rooms to display both “Normal capacity = ‘abc’ and the Capacity under COVID-19 situation = ‘xyz'”)
  • No procession / gathering is allowed which are not licensed or given permission in advance, including religious as well as National days like 14th August etc rallies / processions / gatherings. Similarly ‘Urs’ related activities at shrines will be limited to performing essential rituals with limited number of persons / administration. Restrictions on general public as applicable to closed spaces for limited number of persons allowed shall remain applicable during ‘Urs’ days within shrine / ‘mazar’ premises and no extra activities like ‘shows’ / events or bazars will he held / established
  • Wherever any place / surface / item / artifact / object / thing is touched or used by any individual the same is required to be properly wiped clean / disinfected with chlorine solution / proper disinfectant after every use. Dedicated staff is to be deputed to ensure this. If it is not possible to ensure disinfection after every contact / exposure then such part of facility / portion / equipment / place must be closed for public by placing proper barrier / cover
  • Staff must wash hands frequently and properly before attending any visitor / customer
  • There shall be display of SOPs adopted by the concern at the entrance for customers / inspectors
  • There shall also be display through banners / panaflex highlighting guidelines / directions for the staff and customers to follow / adopt
  • Surprise checks / inspections will be conducted with random COVID testing of Staff / Service providers

The Sindh home department reiterated that a stricter adherence to SOPs was required more than ever before to contain the disease as more activities and businesses were allowed to reopen.

The department warned that anyone who violated the aforementioned orders was “liable for action in accordance with law as per section 4 of Sindh Epidemic Disease Control Act 2014”. Businesses that violated the SOPs would have their permission revoked and their establishment closed.

A special inspection team comprising officers and representatives of the district administration and concerned departments, alongside personnel of law enforcement agencies may check any business or establishment at any time to see whether SOPs were being adhered to or not.

The orders were to come into effect immediately and would continue until September 15, 2020.

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