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EDITORIAL: Surely, the government understands that it is going to need substantial security personnel on the ground to make sure that people follow all the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) has identified for Eid prayers because ordinarily the majority among us feel no qualms even about jumping a red light if a traffic sergeant is not present. The Covid-19 steps in relation to Eid make a perfect sense considering the circumstances, but such measures can achieve only so much by just looking good on paper if authorities are unable to have their own orders implemented, no matter how crucial they are for the people’s own wellbeing. At stake, after all, is not just some academic argument about who - the federal and provincial governments or certain overzealous members of the clergy - get to dictate public behaviour during religious events, but the lives and wellbeing of thousands or millions of people.

Needless to say, of course, that the way the third wave of the coronavirus is exacting a very heavy toll on neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Nepal and especially India needs to be avoided at all costs in Pakistan. Hence the need for implementation of all safety rules outlined very clearly and thoroughly by the NCOC. It was just around this time last year, when Eid was around the corner, that we took our eye off the ball and indulged a little to flagrantly in traditional shopping and mingling with family and friends for the holy day, with the very obvious result that the entire country came very close to actual and economic collapse. Hospitals were quickly overwhelmed and the overall damage would have been far worse if a lot of people hadn’t taken safety precautions at the right time. Then, finally, we were able to more or less defeat the first as well as the second waves of the virus and come out better and stronger than most countries in the world.

Yet for some reasons the story has been very different during the third wave. Nobody knows exactly why but people have just thrown caution to the wind and continue to take the greatest risks by ignoring more or less all safety rules and are going out and about as if we are once again living in normal times. Still, even after all the strictness and the military having been called out to enforce SOPs, it is a very common sight to see most people at any given time and place without masks. The result is that new cases and daily deaths have left authorities pretty helpless and, even though the vaccination drive is progressing as well as it could be expected to, there still isn’t much to suggest that the trend has improved enough for the government to stop worrying all the time.

People seem to have a number of reasons to justify their actions. There will of course always be that desperate bunch, right at the bottom of the food chain, that will never be able to fully comply with lockdowns and SOPs that restrict movement because they rely on daily work to stay alive. Then there’s the more-ignorant-than-usual bunch whose sense of bravado will simply not allow them to act responsibly, especially if other people’s lives are also affected by their actions. And there will never be any shortage of those who think they are not breaking but only slightly bending the rules, while taking the maximum care possible of course, even if whatever motivates them to move when the government is advising them to stay put isn’t absolutely necessary.

Yet, clearly, none of these groups can justify making trouble for everybody by not following all the rules that have been set out for Eid day, especially traditional morning prayers. If all that needs to be done to help the country and its people is stay clean, wear masks, stand at a distance during prayers and not meet every last relative this Eid, then it would be a shame for people’s actions to bring the government worry and trouble instead of the confidence that the people themselves will keep each other and the country safe.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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