KARACHI: While appreciating numerous measures adopted by Sindh Government since the imposition of lockdown from March 23 to prevent spread of coronavirus pandemic particularly the hard work by Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah who has been personally monitoring all the virus-related activities and developments, devising relief strategies, frequently holding follow-up meetings and consultations with all the stakeholders, Chairman Businessmen Group (BMG) & Former President Karachi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (KCCI) Siraj Kassam Teli said, “Coronavirus is not going to go anywhere and it is going to stay with us for the time being. It has become part of our lives and we will have to live with it. We cannot afford to keep the businesses closed forever so the government will have to devise ways and means of how to safely get back to daily routine life in the presence of the virus.” Chairman BMG demanded that it was high time to give the much-awaited relief to perturbed small traders/ shopkeepers by announcing ease in the ongoing lockdown from fifteenth of Ramadan onwards so that members of the business & industrial community, particularly small traders/ shopkeepers could recover some of their losses during the last two weeks of Ramadan when the business activities in all commercial markets become bullish ahead of Eid-ul-Fitr. He said that despite facing severe hardships during the prolonged lockdown, the entire business & industrial community especially small traders/ shopkeepers suffered heavy losses yet they fully cooperated and supported all the decisions taken by the government. Hence, they must now be given some relief in the shape of easing the lockdown under a pre-defined formula in which all the small traders/ shopkeepers be granted the permission to reopen their businesses with an only condition to strictly adhere to the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) which must be mutually agreed and devised in such a manner that all these SOPs are doable and ensure minimum risk. “These SOPs must have physical distancing requirements of two meters between people at all times. SOPs must also mandate limits on operating hours as well as limits on staff and customer capacity while visitor volume in each shop has to be reduced to 40 percent of the shop's capacity. Avoiding handshake and wearing masks must also be made mandatory all the time for visitors and staff while the shopkeepers have to be directed to ensure proper disinfection of their shops after intervals and sanitization of incoming customers along with facility to check temperature at the entrance”, said Siraj Teli, adding that all these SOPs are not just for the shopping season of Ramadan only but these must become part of our daily lives and routine business activities as the coronavirus is going to stay for some time. He said, “The Sindh government has strived really hard during the last one-and-a-half month to contain the spread of coronavirus pandemic and the situation is much better when compared with even some of the most developed countries and cities around the world. We cannot put all these efforts at stake hence, the shopkeepers must strictly ensure social distancing and take precautionary measures within and outside their business premises which is not only in favor of their lives and businesses but also in the larger interest of the country. Every single life is very important so we all have to maintain strict discipline and adopt the SOPs which would help us in continuing our businesses in the presence of the virus”. As BMG was requested to intervene in this matter by the representatives of around 400 markets’ associations from all over the city, Siraj Teli, while extending full support and cooperation, appealed small traders and shopkeepers from all commercial markets to exhibit discipline and ensure strict compliance of SOPs so that the lethal COVID-19 could remain in control when all commercial markets reopen. “The commercial markets, after remaining suspended for 40 consecutive days, are likely to witness huge crowds due to Eid shopping season therefore, the small traders and shopkeepers will have to act sensibly and responsibly by adopting all precautionary measures. Neither KCCI nor any association of small traders will support any shopkeeper whose shop will be sealed on failure to comply with the SOPs.” He stressed that the Federal and Provincial Governments extended the lockdown up to 9th May, which must not be extended further and relaxed from 15th Ramadan, falling on 9th May, as during the last two weeks of the holy month, the entire business & industrial community will be able to recover some of their losses to a certain extent because of the intense buying and selling activities before Eid otherwise the whole year of their business will be at stake. Siraj Teli, while referring to government’s decision to allow around 200 industries to resume their activities during the lockdown, noted that the finished goods of these industries are mostly supplied in the local markets to traders, wholesalers, retailers and shopkeepers etc. who also supply numerous raw materials and other necessary items required by the industries for maintenance and other purposes but unfortunately as businesses of all these small traders/ shopkeepers remain closed, .the business cycle is completely choked that requires immediate attention while the businessmen are also facing severe cash flow problems arising out of nationwide lockdown for almost 40 days. Hence, in order to complete the business cycle, the government must look into the possibility of giving a go ahead also to small traders and retail businesses as well that would surely help in averting further crisis. Keeping in view the acumen of Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah, Chairman BMG hoped that the Sindh government will take prudent decision to reopen shops from 15th Ramadan onwards which will be widely welcomed by the business community as it would certainly provide some sigh of relief to shopkeepers and traders who have suffered severe losses and many of them are at the verge of complete collapse. “These small traders and shopkeepers employ hundreds and thousands of workers and daily wagers to run their businesses which signifies that the survival of all these small traders/ shopkeepers is critically important to save the country from widespread poverty and unemployment”, he added and advised both the federal and provincial governments to directly provide monetary relief to small shopkeepers.