Welcome to the fifth wave! New covid cases are piling up at a horrifying rate. Despite mass-vaccinating—over 80 million people are fully vaccinated in the country which is half of the eligible population—Pakistan recorded the highest number of daily cases only a few days ago with current positivity rate close to 13 percent. As far as vaccination is concerned, the government is not shirking away from its responsibility. Booster shots of one’s own choice are available for Pakistanis above the age of 18. Yet, Karachi has a positivity rate of over 40 percent with the highest number of fresh cases. Lahore meanwhile has the highest people in critical care with fairly high number of growing covid cases.
It is clear now that Covid-19 will keep emerging back once it subsides, but subside each wave will as more people contract the new variants and sub-variants that are being created. Obviously, the answer to the end of the global virus is ensuring that as many people across the world are vaccinated as possible (read: “Chasing the pandemic’s tail”, Nov 30, 2021) since the virus’ tendency to mutate amongst unvaccinated populations is pretty high. Evidently, such groups act as reservoirs for the virus. But vaccine inequality is dangerously rife with rich countries trying to “boost” its way out of the pandemic and poor countries remaining behind with no vaccines in sight.
The lack of foresight among rich nations is alarming here. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 20 percent of the vaccine doses being administered are booster shots while a large number of developing and poor nations remain under-vaccinated. At a press briefing, WHO Secretary General chided nations for exacerbating vaccine inequity. He said: “Blanket booster programmes are likely to prolong the pandemic, rather than ending it, by diverting supply to countries that already have high levels of vaccination coverage, giving the virus more opportunity to spread and mutate”.
While that sense is being knocked, here at home, the government has promised that there will be no country-wide lockdowns. This is the right move. With a large share of the population already vaccinated, and everyday nearly a million new doses being administered, not to mention, booster shots already made available, the economy need not be put under lock and key. Having said that, the government must continue its awareness campaign on vaccine shots and focus on ensuring SOPs are followed with a priority over mask wearing and limiting mass-gatherings.
At the same time, once the wave subsides, it is equally important to unmask and lift restrictions. As long as new variants are being created, the pandemic—like an ocean—will keep creating new waves and it is crucial that the larger population does not fatigue out on following critical SOPs when/if the need arises.