Government should open Karachi’s beaches for the public

The government recently relaxed restrictions and lifted the lockdown imposed for the past two months. Shopping malls are now open, public transport has resumed, and people made to wear masks and maintain social distancing. As the Great Khan said, it was done to prevent people from starving and revive the economy.
One of the oldest truths I’ve known is that people are usually safe from air-borne viruses in open spaces like beaches. Fifty years ago, there was a vicious flu virus that was making people sick, even though it was not as deadly as Covid-19. I was being posted to the sea shore for construction of an oil terminal and I was worried that I might fall victim to the flu virus. “There’s a greater chance of you getting infected from the virus here in this air-conditioned office building than out in the open,” said my superior.
All the evidence so far suggests that the risk of getting infected outdoors is very low, certainly very much lower than getting infected indoors (In China, only one outbreak of infections occurred outdoors, due to neighbors talking to each other without observing social distancing).
Which brings me to the question of opening Karachi’s Hawkesbay and Sandspit beaches to the public. The simple folk living in villages near the beaches are very poor. Until two decades back, they were mostly Baloch (Makranis), but in the past two decades people from all over the country have settled there.They try to survive by working in salt works, catching fish and working in a few small factories nearby as daily wage workers. But a large part of their income is obtained from supplying cold drinks, fruits and other edibles to picnic goers on the two weekly and other festival holidays. Ever since the lockdown was imposed, this source of revenue is no longer available to them, which has made them poorer than they already were.This is why I think the government should allow people to go to the beaches, considering that there is a very low risk of getting infected there compared to the risk involved in going to shopping malls, markets, mosques and buses. The strong sea breeze would immediately disperse the virus and thus weaken it, preventing people from getting infected if there is an infected person nearby. And there is no evidence that an infected person bathing in the sea can transmit the virus to those nearby, as the swirling water of the ocean would minimize any chance of that happening.
Of course, to minimize the risks even more, the same SOPs should be imposed on people going in cars to the beaches. Those not wearing masks should be stopped and turned back. Patrolling on the beaches is already being done to prevent picnickers from wading into deep waters when the sea is rough. The same staff can be used to enforce the wearing of masks and maintaining a minimum of six feet.
Opening the beaches to the public will revive the economy of the area, besides providing the citizens of Karachi the much needed Vitamin D from sunshine which they are prevented from getting due to being confined indoors. I hope the people in power realize the importance and necessity of allowing people to go to the beaches and will issue the necessary orders.
The writer is an engineer, a former visiting lecturer at NED Engineering College, an industrialist, and has been associated with the petroleum, chemical industries for many years. He tweets @shakirlakhani