ISLAMABAD: The National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) prepared guidelines regarding the sale of sacrificial animals on Eid Al-Adha after consulting different stakeholders, senior government functionaries informed Arab News on Saturday, adding that the instructions were specifically designed to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus and would be implemented with the help of district administrations.
The NCOC on Friday suggested setting up cattle markets about two to four kilometers outside of cities. It also insisted on compulsory testing of animal handlers and banned potential buyers from entering these marketplaces without face masks.
The NCOC, the top government institution responsible for preparing a coherent national strategy to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, also limited the timings of cattle markets, saying they would only be allowed to operate during the day. It also called for social distancing and said that thermal scanners must be installed at all entry points of animal markets.
“Keeping in mind our experience of Eid al-Fitr, we will have to be quite vigilant this time,” said Dr. Muhammad Zaeem Zia, Islamabad’s district health officer who regularly attends NCOC meetings. “It is not enough to issue precautionary measures since such guidelines also need to be properly implemented.”
“The health ministry and local administrations are working very closely to prevent the spread of the virus during the sale and purchase of animals,” he continued. “The guidelines issued by the health ministry and NCOC are for the whole country and all provinces must abide by them.”
Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Muhammad Hamza Shafqaat said his administration had also provided its input to the NCOC during the preparation of these guidelines.
“We gave our recommendations to the NCOC and suggested ways to implement the guidelines. We also constituted a joint team of the Capital Development Authority, Municipal Corporation, Islamabad administration and police,” he told Arab News, adding that elderly people and children would not be allowed to enter animal markets.
“The administration will ensure implementation of physical distancing, wearing of masks and gloves, frequent disinfection of places and other precautionary measures,” Shafqaat continued.
President of Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan Dr. Bushra Jameel told Arab News that it was essential to restrict unnecessary movement of animals and people under the circumstances to curb the spread of the infectious respiratory disease.
“It is a good step to move these animal markets outside of cities,” she said, “but the government should provide necessary facilities to people who want to buy these animals. It is also essential to ensure social distancing and implement other precautionary measures. Otherwise, the country may experience yet another surge of infections.”
“I have been buying animals ahead of Eid Al-Adha for the last ten years. However, it seems that it will be a tough and expensive experience this time since we will have to go quite far away to make our purchase,” said Usman Zahoor, a resident of Rawalpindi. “I wonder if setting up these markets so far away from cities will prevent the virus from entering them.”
“It would have been much better if the government had decided to use empty spaces within cities – such as parks etc – to set up animal markets,” he continued. “It would have made life much easier for customers as well.”