FINALLY, some light at the end of the tunnel. New cases of Covid-19 are falling in Pakistan, clocking in at 2,455 on Friday, the fifth consecutive day they remained below 3,000. The positivity rate detected during the same period was 4.42pc, the fourth day running it was less than 5pc. This is reason for hope, a validation of the measures taken thus far — and perhaps some as yet unknown factors — that have helped us evade the devastation that the pandemic has wreaked in India. However, there is a development of concern, which was inevitable despite timely and appropriate action to prevent it. The National Institute of Health announced on Friday that it had detected the first confirmed case of the Indian strain of Covid-19 in the country. That underscores how in this evolving saga of the novel coronavirus, letting one’s guard — or mask — down is not an option. The vaccines do not prevent infection, but they are to varying degrees — often 100pc — successful in preventing serious disease and death.
The vaccination campaign is also moving along, though given our massive population we have inoculated only a miniscule segment of it. Total number of vaccinations across Pakistan on May 27 was 284,975, bringing the tally of people who have received at least one dose to 6,709,848. The National Command and Operation Centre recently announced walk-in vaccination for those 30 years and older. It has also opened the registration process for individuals 19 years and over, which means almost the entire adult population of Pakistan can now get itself inoculated, depending on the availability of vaccines. So far, over 11m doses of vaccines against the novel coronavirus have been received, with 100,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine the most recent to arrive under the Covax facility. Of course, soon the supply will exceed demand: vaccine reluctance is a reality even in advanced countries with high literacy levels. The recent apocalyptic scenes of people dying from the disease on the roadside in India and smoke from funeral pyres darkening the skies in parts of its urban centres likely contributed to convincing many here to get themselves inoculated. But the tendency towards vaccine scepticism is bound to resurface again and a robust campaign to counter it is important.
At the same time, there are millions of Pakistanis who do not possess CNICs, making them ineligible for vaccination. There are also an estimated 3m legal and illegal Afghans and people of other nationalities living here. While the NCOC has decided that those with valid documentation of refugee status will be vaccinated, the authority is still considering how to inoculate the rest. The case of illegal aliens is particularly tricky for they would avoid presenting themselves to the authorities for fear of harassment or deportation. Nevertheless, a way must be found. None of us are safe, until all of us are safe.
Published in Dawn, May 30th, 2021