Alarm bells have been rung. The official word from the government—via Asad Umar—is that the fourth wave of the covid-19 virus is emerging caused by poor compliance of SOPs, and spread of the “delta” variants. The SAPM on National Health Services, Dr Faisal Sultan believes the army may have to be brought in to enforce Covid-19 SOPs across the country.
The NCOC is not doing anything wrong. Vaccinations across the country have certainly picked up. Our own estimations suggest that in order to inoculate 100 million people by June-22 which is the government’s mega target, the daily offtake required is about 423,000 people (read more: “Masks off?” July 07, 2021); the offtake right now falls somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 doses which is on track. The 7-day average stands at about 375,000 doses; slightly behind the goal.
But given how fast the virus can spread and multiply, coupled with the tenacity and ruthlessness of the delta variants—particularly the one originating from India which has devastated the country—Pakistan does not have the luxury of waiting 10 months till enough population is vaccinated. The pace of vaccination must ramp up. As opined by many experts, unvaccinated population are “variant factories” and vaccinations remain the only sure-fire way to curb the spread itself as well as stop the virus from mutating. All communication mediums and channels must be utilized to combat vaccine hesitancy.
Meanwhile, the government must confirm the arrival of the 90 million doses that are to arrive by Dec-21 and make sure folks who are up for their second shot do not end up at the vaccination centre facing a shortage—this has happened with both Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines over the past few weeks in major urban centres.
Mobility restrictions that were relaxed will have to be re-established once again. Though complete lockdown is out of question, masks need to go back on the face. There is a natural fatigue that has set in amongst people who have been living the past 16-17 months with one or another form of covid-19 related restrictions. Bringing in the armed forces for re-enforcement may be a good idea, specially with Eid-ul-Adha round the corner. Strict SOPs should be followed at cattle markets.
If the delta variant has indeed penetrated the border and has begun to spread here, we do not have a lot of time before things could get violently out of control and the system crumbles to a halt. That is what happened in India before the leadership decided to start taking action. The urgency of this must be strategically communicated to the masses, and while hopes could be latched on optimistic scenarios, preparations should be made for the worst-case scenario possible.