Karachiites rush to shop as malls reopen across the city

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After nearly a two-month-long lockdown, the semblance of normality resumed in the metropolis as the provincial government eased restrictions in the city on Tuesday,

Buyers thronged the malls in Karachi which were allowed to reopen on Tuesday after the Supreme Court’s order. The apex court on Monday ordered the reopening of shopping malls and markets for the entire week all over the country which had been shut down during the lockdown given the coronavirus pandemic.

A five-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed, and comprising Justice Mushir Alam, Justice Mazhar Alam Khan Miankhel, Justice Sardar Tariq Masood and Justice Qazi Muhammad Amin Ahmed, heard the suo moto case regarding combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The shopping malls in Karachi opened at around 8am in the city on Tuesday, with thousands reaching early in the morning as malls have been ordered to close by 5pm.

According to rough estimates, there are 40 small and huge malls in Karachi and in each mall, there are 400 shops on average. At around 3pm, a huge line was seen outside the Dolmen Mall at Tariq Road.

Dolmen Mall’s public relations and external communication officer Palwasha Sikender told The News they had limited the headcount of people entering the mall and even entering different outlets.

“There’s a kiosk outside the mall for gloves and masks,” she said, adding that children under the age of 12 and old age people are strictly not allowed.

“We strictly follow social distancing in the mall. All the retail staff have also been briefed about it,” she explained, adding that their trail rooms for clothes’ buyers were also closed and they were encouraging cashless payments from customers, “not that cash payments are completely not allowed.”

The mall management, she said, did not allow anyone to enter the mall without a mask.

However, in small malls on Tariq Road, no thermal guns or sanitisers were seen as buyers were allowed to enter unchecked and unmasked.

The situation in the Saddar market was no different, with the entire market crammed full of buyers and vehicles honking horns at signals. Rickshaws were packed with passengers without masks.

A lady with shopping bags in her hands who was anxiously looking for a rickshaw with her daughter and a son, told The News, “Few days are left in Eid, there are certain needs which have to be fulfilled before that.”

Buyers also thronged the Atrium Mall with long queues formed without any social distancing. Atrium Mall’s operational manager told The News that they had been sanitising all buyers and even shopkeepers.

He said they were making sure that social distancing was observed. “No one is allowed to enter the mall without a mask,” he said, adding that children and people above the age of 60 were not allowed inside the mall.

The Atrium Mall, he said, had the capacity to have at least 15,000 buyers at a time easily and they allowed only 1000 to 1500 buyers inside the mall at a time. According to a rough estimate, he said, on Tuesday alone 4000 to 5000 buyers visited the mall.

The operational manager shared how difficult it was to control the crowd of buyers, as “they don’t care about the lives of the children as well as the elderly”.

Around 10% of the families, he said, were asked to go back, as they either had kids or brought someone above the age of 60 with them or had no mask with them. “Few made their kids sit in the waiting area outside the mall we have established,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Lucky One Mall’s assistant manager activation, Tanzeel-ur-Rehman Khan, told The News they had marked foot stickers outside and inside the mall on each floor.

Sanitisers had been installed on each floor and their security properly checks temperature through the thermal scanners. Younger than the age of 12 and older than 55, he said, were not allowed to enter the mall.

The mall has a parking space for 1,500 cars, he said, adding that they were making sure that once 400 cars were parked in the mall, they did not let more cars inside and asked buyers to wait.

“If we feel that the buyers are 30% to our total capacity, we close our gates for a while,” he said, adding that at around 1:30pm on Tuesday, around 5,000 buyers had visited their mall.

He predicted that the rush would increase manifolds in days to come, but assured that their three-layers of security would manage the crowd.

Commissioner Karachi’s SOPs

On Tuesday Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani had issued an administrative order and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for shopping malls.

The order said that no customer would be allowed to enter the mall without a face mask. It said the availability of hand sanitizers for customers had to be ensured at all the entry points of the shopping malls.

“No customer shall be allowed to enter the shopping malls without being scanned with thermal guns,” the order read.

“Anyone with flu-like symptoms, high temperature and dry cough will not be allowed to enter the shopping mall. The management of all the malls are required to reduce one-third of footfall capacity in their shopping malls,” it said.

“The footfall shall be digitalised to monitor the social distancing of at least three feet amongst the customers,” the order said, adding that the management had to use signage throughout the premise to ensure social distancing for customers and employees.

The order said the instructions and awareness posters with pictorial images for workers, staff and customers at prominent places in the mall had to be displayed.

“Anyone above the age of 55 and below the age of 12 is not allowed to enter the shopping malls, while the entry and exit points in the shopping malls have to be prominently marked, displayed and strictly monitored.”

It added, “The shopping malls shall be frequently cleared with disinfectant. All the deputy commissioners of the Karachi division are directed in the order to monitor the observance of the SOPs in shopping malls and take action in accordance with the law and implement the directives of the Supreme Court.”

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