THE last few weeks of Ramazan have reminded us once again that we are living in surreal times. For the third Eid in a row, the run-up to the religious festival in the country has been low key, overshadowed by the ongoing pandemic. For many, the occasion will be marked by grief for the absence of a loved one felled by the contagion. Scores of families will be praying for their parents, siblings, children, etc still clinging to life in Covid-19 hospital wards. For millions of Pakistanis, this will be not just a quieter Eid, with some form of lockdown in place in many urban centres, but it will be one spent with empty pockets and empty stomachs. Where countless small retailers and hawkers are concerned, this is a time of year when they make a windfall on the sale of celebratory paraphernalia, and they do not have the wherewithal to tide them over in lean times. The economic fallout of the pandemic on the whole has been particularly brutal on daily wagers, as well as factory workers and private employees, many of whom lost their jobs as the economy contracted sharply.

Read: The Analytical Angle: How Pakistan can learn from the Covid crisis in India

While not much can be said with certainty about when the pandemic will be over, it is indisputable that our actions now will prevent matters from becoming far worse. Notwithstanding the calls to show caution, some markets were thronged with foolhardy shoppers going about their business without paying any heed to SOPs. Calling for military deployment to assist the police in enforcing social distancing guidelines and mask wearing appears, however, to have made a significant difference. As per the National Command and Operation Centre, national average compliance with SOPs doubled from 34pc on April 25 to 68pc on May 3. Whether this trend will continue or not is a moot point, given that Pakistanis are generally averse to following rules, or giving credence to scientific facts. As NCOC chief Asad Umar tweeted a few days ago: “The danger is higher than ever. And knocking at our doors.” The situation in India remains nightmarish, where cases are increasing faster than anywhere else in the world. In Nepal, 9,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus were detected on Tuesday. The disease is surging in the region, and we must not allow ‘pandemic fatigue’ to make us lax in our behaviour lest we find ourselves in the same situation.

According to figures posted on May 11, Pakistan saw 3,084 cases of Covid-19 detected out of a total of 38,883 tests — a positivity rate of 7.93pc — in the preceding 24 hours. One hundred and thirteen people unfortunately succumbed to the disease during the same period. So far a little over 3.8m individuals have been vaccinated in the country. Let us diligently stay the course, so that the next Eid can be a little less sombre.

Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2021

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