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In a recent tweet to his followers, Asad Umar, a prominent part of the sitting government, admits that the covid-19 situation in the country is dire. Critical patient care is 30 percent higher than what it was during the peak in June last year, he says. Oxygen supply is constrained and SOP compliance is low. He then opines that the country is making a huge mistake in not following SOPs. This is odd because the statement seems to imply that people at large are at fault when the onus—of enforcing SOPs and ensure adherence—falls on the government.

It is government’s job to create a plan of action using a number of strategies including but not limited to some form of lockdown (read more: “Covid-19: Big picture”, April 12, 2021). These different strategies can be linked to the growth in fresh cases, re-emergence of the virus, positivity rate and the rate at which people are being hospitalized. The intensity of each strategy step would be directly proportional to the covid-19 data being collected.

It is the government’s job to have a vaccination plan for the 130 million odd people which is the only sure-fire way for the government to gain herd immunity. And it is the government’s job to carve out a communication plan to inform the publics about the importance of SOP adherence, and dispel anti-vax propaganda that is very prevalent among the public.

The vaccination drive so far is coming up short. There are supply constrictions in attaining the vaccines—earlier, the government was supposed to inoculate at least 20 percent of the population with the free vaccine (combination of China’s Sinopharm and UK’s AstraZeneca) but it seems there aren’t enough vaccines to come by. A major portion of the population, meanwhile, does not want to get vaccinated (hence creating a need for an advocacy campaign to counter propaganda).

There is virtually no data for public consumption that would allow a fair and impartial evaluation into the progress of the vaccine program which is a major blindspot for analysts and researchers. There is also no strategy that maps out the private sector’s contribution to the vaccination drive, how much of the population it would be able to cover given the price caps, and in turn, what support (whether fiscally in the form of a subsidy or logistically in the form of leveraging more doses from global suppliers) can the government provide in making sure those who want to get the vaccine, get the vaccine!

If SOPs are not being followed, and fresh cases are not increasing as rapidly as next-door India, there are two possible answers: 1) that Pakistanis somehow have more immunity 2) that a tougher and bigger wave is coming very soon. There is no way to confirm the first but the latter is a solemn forewarning.

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