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EDITORIAL: The Sindh government was clearly forced into imposing a night-time curfew, even if they prefer to give it the more sanitised name of “sweeping restrictions on unnecessary movement”, because of the extraordinary number of fresh corona cases as well as deaths in the province. The biggest worry right now is that the new Indian variant - which leaves black fungus in the lungs and other sensitive organs and might even be a little more resistant to all the vaccines than what has now become the old strain of the virus - could find its way to Pakistan and completely overwhelm the country’s medical infrastructure. The PPP government has also experimented with smart lockdowns, and their spokesman has made it very clear that they are not in favour of completely shutting down everything at all, but the traditional approach of reducing business hours to a minimum and urging people to exercise caution just hasn’t worked. Hence the curfew, which will make it very difficult for people with even genuine reasons to be out on the roads past 8pm in the night.

Now that things have come to such a pass, the curfew will need to be enforced very strictly. And for that in addition to the police the government will also have to call out the Rangers, just like they did to make sure that the March-April 2020 lockdown was not violated in any way.

The poorest of the poor tend not to take lockdowns too seriously because of the slim chance that hunger and starvation wouldn’t kill them sooner than the virus if they have to stay locked indoors with very little movement. That explains the semblance of normalcy that has been allowed till 6pm, after which everybody is given two hours to get off the roads or face punishment. The undeniable compulsion to accommodate the least fortunate, and financially insecure, among us only underscores the need to enforce the night-time curfew very firmly. Only as many people as absolutely necessary can be allowed to be out of their homes at any time because that is the only way to be rid of the virus and unless the greatest care is taken these restrictions will remain in one form or another. So it is in everybody’s interest to follow all the rules at all times.

It is something of a concern though that Sindh is having to employ harsher measures just when some other parts of the country feel confident enough to lift some restrictions on public movement. This presents both problems and opportunities. It’s a big problem because unless Sindh cleans up its act it will once again spread the virus to other parts of the country. Yet it’s also a good sign because it shows that simply by observing safety protocols things can improve very quickly and steps like reopening schools and allowing open air functions can be taken.

Everybody knows that a complete lockdown just cannot be imposed because it would surely take the life out of the economy, hurting household and government budgets alike. It is also very clear that governments take decisions like imposing curfews only as a last resort because the last thing they want is for any of their decisions to bring the economy to a halt. Yet maintaining public safety is the prime responsibility of the government. Therefore striving for the greater good demands that safety be put before everything else, even the economy. It is hoped that the curfew will turn the trend around in Sindh and no harsher measures will be needed, because the sooner the third wave of the coronavirus is behind us the better for everybody - rich and poor alike. Yet it is in people’s hands, at the end of the day, to make this initiative a success or a failure. More or less everything depends on how serious most of us have become about realising the central necessity of following safety rules in the fight against the coronavirus.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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