EDITORIAL: That Pakistan recorded more than 100 Covid-19-related deaths in a single day for the first time in three months goes to show that the fight against the pandemic isn’t exactly going according to plan. Planning minister and head of the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) Asad Umar lays the blame on the campaign for the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) election, which drew feverish crowds just when the Delta variant of the coronavirus was in full swing. Apparently, he warned of just such an outcome and even wrote to the AJK election commissioner, recommending a postponement of a good few months; at least till a lot more vaccinations were rolled out, but to no avail. Now the positivity rate in the area has shot up to 30 percent. And since the Delta variant spreads at something close to the speed of light, there’s no telling when this graph will even begin to plateau.
Perhaps the planning minister would have made louder noise if his own party weren’t drawing very large crowds in the campaign as well. And now that the opposition Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) alliance is set to hold another one of its rallies in Karachi, which the government obviously does not want, he’s raising the red flag rather loudly so the other side at least gets a few black points for its efforts. Either way, the Covid-19 situation seems likely to get worse before it will get any better. Once again restrictions are being eased because of Muharram processions, so people should be ready for much tighter lockdowns in a few days.
It’s a little strange, to say the least, that even this long into the pandemic people haven’t really come round to respecting necessary Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as laid down by the government. It’s a small miracle, therefore, that we as a country have been able to do so well so far. But now, with the Delta variant posing problems that previous variants didn’t, including infecting vaccinated people, it is very clear that we will either have to shape up or be ready to suffer the consequences. Asad Umar himself pointed out one of our most striking failings. If politicians are responsible for the worst violations of Covid-19 SOPs, then there’s precious little to be expected from ordinary people, isn’t there?
We will all simply have to understand and appreciate the fact that at the end of the day it is up to all individuals to keep themselves and others safe. For such is the nature of this virus that even the slightest lack of discipline from a few people can end up impacting many, many others; including their own immediate family members and friends. And such lack of discipline can also slow the economy down to a very serious degree. The last thing we need right now is for people to ignore safety protocols and the virus to spread very quickly, because that would overwhelm our medical facilities and derail the economy just when it looks primed for the kind of growth that we so desperately need.
Politicians must, of course, take the lead in telling, and showing, everybody what really needs to be done. And ordinary Pakistanis must also rise to the occasion because the nation’s very existence as we know it depends on it. For, let there be no doubt that if things really do get out of control, and we are forced into a battle of pure survival, then a very different country will emerge when the dust settles. Needless to say, of course, that we are in no position to take such risks. And if all that is needed right now is for Pakistanis to be more responsible for the sake of Pakistan, then there’s no reason why things won’t begin to look up soon enough.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021