AS was expected, hundreds of thousands of people came out of their homes on the first day of the relaxed lockdown. In every province, markets and shops were crowded as if the virus and its very real threat were things of the past. Scenes in bustling commercial areas showed that the practice of ‘social-distancing’, mask-wearing and general precaution were all but forgotten. This happened as Pakistan crossed the 30,000 mark for positive cases and Sindh recorded over 1,000 Covid-19 cases — the highest in a single day. These results were obtained after close to 5,500 tests were conducted in the province in 24 hours, which means approximately 20pc were positive. The situation is already serious and the reports from hospitals and doctors suggest that the situation will get worse. According to the Sindh health minister, there is a sharp increase in the number of patients “after every half an hour” and the number of beds in high-dependency units across hospitals in the province are running short. While the graph for positive cases remains on the incline and recorded deaths reach 670, the lockdown appears to exist merely in name. The caveat for following SOPs, too, has been ignored, and bodes poorly for what lies ahead.

The coming weeks will determine whether the government’s gamble of restarting business was worth the risk. Worryingly, the data and the size of crowds in public contradict this decision. If the government is unable to effectively enforce SOPs, as the scenes from yesterday indicate, the results will be disastrous. Already, congregations in mosques are violating the protocols agreed upon between the government and clergy. There is also very little hope that the rest of the general public will suddenly observe SOPs. In Punjab, where contact-based industries such as barbershops and salons have been allowed to open, implementing SOPs will be an even bigger challenge as many of these businesses exist in closed, private spaces. If the cases and deaths continue to climb at this rate — which the data predicts may happen — the authorities must be quick and decisive in their response and revoke relaxations in the lockdown. A scenario where these cases and deaths rise and no action is taken will cripple the healthcare system and be a collective blow to both society and the economy.

As the government mulls its next move, it should focus its resources on ramping up testing. While testing has increased to around 12,000 per day, it is still far less than the goal of 25,000. Furthermore, members of the federal and provincial governments should end hostilities which are continuing unabated in this pandemic. The presence of the coronavirus and the ensuing chaos have created an unprecedented situation which demands extraordinary leadership. Name-calling and blame games will only worsen the public’s already low levels of trust in the state.

Published in Dawn, May 12th, 2020

Opinion

Blurred boundaries
Updated 10 May 2021

Blurred boundaries

Karachi’s administration and provincial agencies have taken measures that hit the urban poor on a continuous basis.
Sequencing IMF reforms
10 May 2021

Sequencing IMF reforms

It is clear that the revival of and rise in economic growth is becoming a concept alien to the IMF.
‘Darlings of the court’
09 May 2021

‘Darlings of the court’

The public deserves to see and learn from the process by which Justice Isa won after having nearly lost.

Editorial

10 May 2021

Safe havens

THE pull-out of foreign forces from Afghanistan has security ramifications for that country as well as neighbouring...
10 May 2021

Important bills

AT last, there is some movement on critical legislation that appeared to have been put on the back-burner. The...
Al Aqsa clashes
Updated 10 May 2021

Al Aqsa clashes

US policy remains wedded to blind support for the Jewish state.
Updated 09 May 2021

Sharif mission aborted

THE government is in no mood to let PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif leave the country. The opposition leader was...
09 May 2021

Amazon opportunity

THE decision by global e-commerce giant Amazon to add Pakistan to its sellers’ list is expected to unleash ...
09 May 2021

PCB’s parental policy

THE Pakistan Cricket Board’s announcement of its parental support policy earlier this week is praiseworthy, for...