THE repeated Covid-19 warnings from the NCOC point to a dangerous future, yet many politicians, including those in government, and citizens are refusing to take the threat seriously. Planning Minister Asad Umar this week predicted that a failure to take preventive measures may thrust the country towards the situation witnessed in June, when hospitals were overwhelmed with infected patients. With new Covid-19 cases crossing 3,000 and deaths almost 60 in a 24-hour period, it appears that we are on track to a crippling new peak — one that may well surpass the hospitalisations, infections and deaths of the first wave which hit in the summer months. In several countries, the beginning of winter has brought a renewed challenge as Covid-19 cases spread faster. In Pakistan, the winter months trigger respiratory illnesses due to smog and high levels of pollution, a phenomenon that will further complicate the Covid-19 picture.

There are certain timely steps that have been taken by the authorities to address the problem of rising cases, one of which is school closure as a result of the significant spread of the virus in educational institutes. However, the difficult decisions cannot stop there if this devil-may-care attitude on the part of our authorities and even the general public continues. The Sindh government for instance, which had an exemplary Covid-19 response in the first wave, has this time around been utterly irresponsible. In going ahead with their participation in PDM rallies and preparing to observe their foundation day at a public meeting in Multan next week, their approach at this critical time shows a tremendously disappointing shift from the earlier unequivocal and science-led strategy. The federal government, too, despite the prime minister’s warnings to the public, has failed to deliver an effective message about Covid-19 to citizens, who are happy to go about life without face coverings and attending large gatherings. Neither have doctors and law-enforcement officials issued the kind of public warnings and projections we saw in the first wave, despite the daily Covid-19 stats painting a stark picture. Overall, energy across the board is low even though the circumstances demand a robust and committed message. Prolonged carelessness has forced other countries into a lockdown, which has hurt livelihoods and damaged schooling and mental health, to save the healthcare system from total collapse. If we continue down this dark path, Pakistan, too, will have no choice but to shut down.

Published in Dawn, November 26th, 2020

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