More testing needed

04 Aug 2020


A CONSIDERABLE decrease in the number of active Covid-19 cases in the past couple of weeks has resulted in the easing of restrictions, the opening up of public spaces and reduced testing in several parts of the country. It is, however, too soon to let down our guard. As Prime Minister Imran Khan rightly pointed out, carelessness during Eidul Azha could cause a fresh spike in infections, putting further strain on our already overstretched healthcare resources. Though the daily number of deaths and infections have decreased considerably, the authorities would still have to keep an eye on the emerging trend over the next couple of weeks as those newly infected — their numbers could be considerable due to violation of SOPs and socialising over Eid — begin to show symptoms. This means that testing, which has gone down, has to be ramped up. Even at its peak, testing by the government was far below the target. But now that the rate of infection has fallen, government testing also seems to be on the decline. For example, the Punjab government has eased the lockdown earlier than anticipated while also reducing the number of tests by around 30pc of its daily capacity of 17,000. Less testing may leave us vulnerable if a second wave of infections begins in the country, so there is absolutely no room for complacency, and SOPs must be strictly enforced everywhere. There are also concerns that the approaching month of Muharram may see a spike in infections as people congregate to fulfil religious obligations.

To really push the country out of this pandemic, both the government and the people will have to keep taking adequate precautionary measures. The authorities should maintain a baseline level of testing despite the decline in cases to be able to predict and prepare for a potential second wave of Covid-19 and to obtain more data. On its part, the public must follow the government-recommended SOPs to make sure that we conquer this pandemic once and for all.

Published in Dawn, August 4th, 2020