EDITORIAL: As Pakistan stumbles through the third wave of Covid-19 pandemic, the National Command and Operation Centre has announced stiff measures to restrict activities contributing to the sharp rise in Covid-19 cases. At a meeting on Monday, aside from re-imposing some restrictions, such as closure of commercial activities by 8pm, ban on all types of large indoor gatherings, complete shutdown of amusement parks, reduced presence in courts, and stringent protocols for tourism, the forum also decided to impose broader lockdowns in 10 cities where the positivity ratio is greater than 8 percent. Residents of these areas are to be informed about the duration of lockdowns. Since people will not be permitted to move freely except for emergencies they will be advised to store food items or order them through online services.
The cities/districts identified for “high impact interventions” are Islamabad, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, Hyderabad, Peshawar, Swat and Muzaffarabad. According to a press report, based on sample tests on Sunday, results showed positivity rate for Islamabad at 9.2%, in Rawalpindi it was 9.84%, in Lahore 14.72%, in Multan 14.17%, and in Bahawalpur 12.98%. Faisalabad had the highest positivity in Punjab at 18.69%. Peshawar reported the overall highest infections rate at 19.98%, while Swat was not far behind with 17.09% infections. Muzaffarabad had 15.56% positivity rate and Hyderabad 10.03%. It is worth noting that except for the last two, all these cities are either in the PTI-ruled Punjab or Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, or the national capital under the party’s federal government. It is possible that these statistics are reflective of better testing facilities and greater public cooperation in Punjab and KP as well as Islamabad than in other parts of the country. That though makes the results no less worrying.
A major reason for the resurgence of Covid-19 is a general relaxation of precautionary measures. When the coronavirus first struck the government displayed a highly efficient approach to the situation. On the one hand, smart lockdowns were enforced in the worst affected neighbourhoods. On the other hand, a test trace service was established for people arriving from other countries. But after a while complacency set in. It is pertinent to recall here that in a TV talk show a few days ago, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid disclosed that a sample testing of 300 people with Covid-19 infections showed 70 percent presence of the British variant, which is extremely contagious. That seems to explain the high incidence of this deadly virus in big cities of Punjab as well as in AJK capital Muzaffarabad. Which underscores the need for strict application of test and trace rules. Just as important is to ensure firm implementation of SOPs. Most people will not comply with such a simple requirement as wearing a face mask in public places unless they are made to pay fines. The new course of action to prevent the spread of the disease must include penalty for violators of SOPs.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021