Can parks be open during this pandemic?

Published Jun 14, 2020 11:06am

Ever since the federal government criticised, albeit in a roundabout way, the Sindh government’s decision to impose a lockdown in the province that the latter runs, a debate on whether to put health or the economy on top of the state’s priority list has begun. And it’s a never-ending one.

As things stand right now, it seems that both are not mutually exclusive. Still, health is a subject that should be dealt with more seriousness than any other for obvious reasons. But then, health does not merely signify our physical state of being. Mental health is an equally, if not more, important aspect of our lives.

The recent loosening of lockdown led to a variety of undesirable things, one of which was the mindless, no-distance-maintained congregations of people at bazaars and markets. The much bandied about phrase ‘social distancing’ was thrown out the window, and not everyone wore a mask when they went shopping. Only time will tell what damage it’s done to our society.

On the other hand, a relatively better display of adherence to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) was witnessed at malls. It goes to show that discipline can be maintained if the caretakers of a particular establishment set their minds to it.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to reopen the parks where observance of SOPs can be ensured

A good thing that has happened with the lockdown ease is that people, to a reasonable extent, have become health conscious (one knows that there’s a big number of us who believe that the virus is a hoax, and it’s hard to convince them it’s not). They can now be seen coming out of their homes in the evening for a brisk walk or a sprint, depending what age bracket they fit in.

Keeping that in mind, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to reopen the parks in Karachi, those ones where it can be made sure that the SOPs are followed. After all, every park has a set of guards manning its gates. One says this because staying indoors for a long stretch of time can have a detrimental effect on people’s psychological health. Fresh air, space to move around and seeing signs of everyday life is just as vital for them as keeping themselves fit and disease-free. Reports are already pouring in of domestic abuse on the rise and families finding it difficult to keep peace within the four walls of their houses.

England is one of the countries worst hit by the coronavirus pandemic. But even there, recently citizens have been allowed to meet in groups of up to six people outside, in parks of private gardens, as long as they remain six feet apart. Since we are not particularly known for our discipline, parks in the city can be opened for a particular time period, let’s say, from 6am to 9am or 5pm to 7.30pm, so that fresh air could be breathed in to ward off depression and anxiety.

Originally published in Dawn, June 14th, 2020

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