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Credits: AFP PHOTO / ASIF HASSAN

As the government eased the lockdown on May 11 that has been imposed countrywide since March 2020, people have taken a breath of relief. Though lockdown had never been practiced by citizens in its true sense, however, with new protocols in place, it seems that we have forgotten about the pandemic entirely.

As soon as an eased set of rules was shared by the government, the very next day malls were filled with people cashing in on the new deals. Standard operational procedures (SOP's) shared by the government were neglected completely and social distancing became a thing of the past.  Women who hadn't had the chance to visit beauty salons for almost a month and a half rushed to the parlours to get services done. Attractive package deals marketed by these establishments and with Eid coming soon, precautionary measures are now less talked about; it's all hair, nails, and shiny, spotless skin.

The desire to look your absolute best is understandable but should your beauty needs take precedence over your life and someone else's? We spoke to the owner of a famous beauty salon in Lahore who agreed to share her views on the condition of anonymity.

"Even when the government hadn't lifted restrictions, I'd receive so many calls from my clients asking to open the parlour, or send my workers to their homes. They wouldn't listen to any logic or reason just wanted to look their best for their private iftar parties and get-togethers," shared S and added, "I would refuse and tell them that I can send my workers to anyone's place since it's not safe. I've lost many clients to my competitors because they used the other approach."

S has struggled quite a lot to sustain her business during the lockdown, with no other means of income and a family to take care of, it was a constant battle. Her expenditures were still the same and she had to pay her employees their pay. The girls who worked for her were also getting impatient, for they often relied on tips by customers.

"What a person is to do in situation like this? I couldn't keep saying no while my workers insisted that I accept the client's request to do home services. I finally caved," the owner said, "However, I kept a strict code of conduct and made rules about what services the client can or can't avail at home. I didn't want my employees to catch virus while trying to earn their livelihood."

Now that the government has eased down on the lockdown and beauty salons are open four days a week, S's parlour is open too. But she isn't too happy about it.

"I don't know what to feel about these new rules, on one hand, I'm happy that I can at least start earning something again, on the other hand, I'm really scared for my staff. With home services, at least my workers were giving services to one woman at a time that too in their own home. Social distancing was followed, if not completely but to some extent," told S and added, "But now there is so much rush at the salon, clients don't want to practice any preventive methods. They don't want to wear masks, they don't want to maintain distance. It's chaos."

Why don't clients want to wear maks? S tells us that most of the clients don't wear masks or gloves because it makes it difficult for them to breathe. To avoid a minor inconvenience, they are putting staff and other customers at risk. S has some real concerns:

"I've told customers to not take services which can cause my staff to repeatedly touch their faces, particularly around nasal areas with bare hands like threading. But they don't want to take any suggestions. They don't realize that God forbids if they get sick, they can practice self-isolation for they have privilege but if they infect one of my workers, they are putting entire families at risk. These girls [worker] come from very underprivileged families where 10 members share a single room."

Unfortunately despite requesting many times, S has yet to see her clients follow the SOP's shared by the government. She has now ordered gowns and face shields for her staff.

"If I can't make customers follow procedures, I can at least take some measures for the safety of my staff," S says.

Even tho the government has eased the lockdown but virus is still here, we are still living through a global pandemic that has taken lives of approximately 3,17,004 people globally. So why are we acting so recklessly and carelessly? Why are our beauty needs taking precedence over our lives and lives of those we are putting at risk in return? These questions by S are still unanswered.

What can clients do to make it easier for you and your staff? We asked S.

"They can take a shower before visiting the salon. I understand why clients prefer coming in their night suits to salons but we are living through a global pandemic. Things need to change. They should wear maks and disinfect themselves, book appointment before visiting to keep the rush at a minimum. Use wax strips on their face and shouldn't insist on getting threadings. These measures will ensure their safety and of those working at beauty establishments."

These measures are easy and doable and can save many lives by keeping the risks level at a minimum. Lockdown has been lifted, the virus is still here.