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Pakistan is often quoted by many for the global recognition of its COVID response. Nonetheless, the globalpandemic not only had an immediate impact on health of the people and healthcare systems across the globe, it was believed to have significant and long term socio economic impact as well.

Last year’s Economic Survey of Pakistan (FY21) counts the impact COVID had on the socioeconomic front of the country. Its impact particularly on the health domain where healthcare system of the country is fragile, provision of healthcare for COVID as well as non-COVID related illnesses was one of the biggest concerns. The pandemic significantly impacted the reproductive healthcare and the newborn in terms of shortages of required medications, regular vaccines for immunization, and diversion of resources for COVID patients and response.

On the education side, mobility constraints, and access to internet, laptops/computers and tele-schooling had an uneven impact – especially for women, which increased the disparity in education further.

Giving credit where due, the previous government was able to manage COVID decently with its variants, economic and social impact and resource requirements. When curtains fell on NCOC on April 1, 2022, COVID had infected more than 1.5 million people in the country with 30,355 deaths due to the virus since the beginning of the pandemic.

After a lull of a few months, the virus is rearing its head again – at least it looks like as the COVID positivity rate in the country is seen crossing one percent, with Hyderabad, Karachi and Islamabad leading. Does this mean that COVID is back? Mostly likely yes; the virus was never completely gone and the spike in the cases should not surprise the health officials as the world continues to see cases. Will it turn into a full-fledged COVID wave in the country? It is too early to say anything with 100 percent surety as the dynamics today are different with the number of vaccinations completed and the healthcare system’s experience to deal with hospitalizations.

However, a wave cannot be ruled out completely because the country has completely opened up; travel bans and restrictions have been completely lifted; economic activity restrictions have been removed; and basic SOPs such as masking and social distancing has almost ended. Also, the rising number of cases is also a signal that the vaccine efficacies waning. And a major difference since the last wave has been the change in government. If cases rise, what will be interesting to see is how the new government handles and manages COVID.

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