It was catastrophic two weeks post Eid last year, as Pakistan’s Covid cases and positivity rate touched all-time highs. Around Eid this year, the third wave was just gaining momentum, and many had feared a repeat of last year. Then came the extended holidays with varying degree of success. But that did work wonders, as Pakistan seems to have bent the third wave.
The numbers are encouraging without a doubt on the national scale as the positivity rate dips under 5 percent, which is a WHO metric of the spread under relative control. That said, national positivity rate can often be misleading, as there are still a few big cities with positivity rate above 5 percent. But the trend everywhere, even in Karachi which had seen positivity as high as 16 percent 10 days ago, is encouraging.
It must be noted that bending of the curve is not a guarantee to a sustained flattening of the curve. The curve stayed flattened after the first peak for relatively longer time of two months. But the second wave did not stay flattened for more than a month, as new variants and naturally relaxed human behavior come into play.
As restrictions have gradually been removed from most parts of the country, caution must increase. Enforcement of SOPs must not be linked with movement restrictions only, as it has been observed that SOPs are forcefully implemented only when partial lockdowns are in place. There has not been a fourth wave yet anywhere in the world, but nobody has ruled it out, as Germany and Japan have reportedly started to prepare for a possible fourth wave.
Even when commercial activities return to near normalcy, the guard must not be let down on foreign travel scrutiny. It is often the new variants which cause a flattened curve to rise again and become a wave. Pakistan has so far managed to track and trace the handful of cases from the Indian variant, which has now been named Delta by the WHO. The said variant is known to spread considerably faster and is many times deadlier, as the eastern neighbor is unfortunately witnessing.
Barring the two peaks of the first and second wave, the healthcare system has coped rather well, with spare capacity available at most times, even with the ventilator usage touched the highest last month. Some heart can be taken in the fact that Pakistan’s vaccination drive is unexpectedly going smooth so far, largely because it has not yet become a supply side problem, as demand remains manageable. As time goes by, there will surely be an increase in demand as hesitancy around the world has come down as vaccination drives have gone deeper.
Here is hoping people have learnt the lessons that the virus keeps coming back from nowhere, when the guard is down. Governments cannot be expected to forever restrict movements, the onus is gradually shifting towards the society to act more responsibly. Vaccinations will surely help, but complacency is not an option.