- Enforcing SOPs during Eidul Azha
While Eidul Azha comes at the end of July, the purchase of sacrificial animals has already started. Soon cattle markets will spring up around big cities where, in normal Eids, entire families rush to buy sacrificial animals of their choice. Crowded cattle markets could cause a rapid spread of the coronavirus. On Wednesday, Pakistan Medical Association leaders and civil society activists in Karachi called on the government not to allow cattle markets within the city and ensure strict implementation of its standard operating procedures (SOPs) during the Eidul Azha. They warned that unless SOPs were strictly enforced during the Eid festival, the country would face another hard time, like it did after Ramzan.
The government cannot just ban the markets. Unlike the Eidul Fiter, as much as 80 percent of the spending on the “Major Eid” is on sacrificial animals. With cattle worth hundreds of billions of rupees sold, the Eidul Azha marks a major trade event with money this time flowing from the cities to the countryside where the cattle are reared over a whole year to fetch a good price on the day. Hundreds of thousands of cattle owners and tens of thousands of middlemen are involved in the business all over the country.
Cattle markets must be confined to areas outside the big cities. The entry of entire families including children should be banned in the markets. Proper SOPs need to be urgently evolved by provincial governments which should also oversee their implementation. It is a matter of concern that some of the provinces have yet to take important decisions in this regard.
Administrations at the district and city levels have to take the ulema, mosque committees and prayer leaders into confidence to ensure that social distancing is maintained during the Eid prayers and the worshippers aren’t admitted without masks. The prayer leaders should be asked to advise the worshippers to curb festivities in view of the pandemic. Slackness during the Ramzan and Eidul Fitr led to quadrupling of the corona cases. Unless the government succeeds in enforcing the SOPs, the Eidul Azha too may significantly enhance the number of positive cases adding to the speed of the pandemic’s spread.