AS the countrywide positivity ratio of Covid-19 infections crossed 8pc, Sindh imposed a nine-day lockdown effective from Saturday. The decision came as nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases were recorded across the country on July 30, and as oxygen beds and Covid-19 units in Karachi’s hospitals began to fill up.

The province’s chief minister said the lockdown from July 31 to Aug 8 was a ‘loose lockdown’ and was different from the one last year. Export-related industries, bakeries and essential services remain open though markets and government offices are closed. Restaurants are restricted to takeaways only, and exams scheduled in this period have been postponed. The government advisory is that residents should not leave home unless it is for the purpose of vaccination.

Read: Sindh lifts ban on pillion riding, small public transport during lockdown

The closure of markets and restriction on business activities will bring hardship to daily wage earners and inconvenience business. But, as officials in the Sindh government have said, it is absolutely necessary to provide breathing space to public-sector hospitals that are feeling immense pressure from an uptick in Covid-19-related hospitalisations. It is imperative that the spread of infections in the province is kept under control, and the curve flattened. With Muharram around the corner and large processions expected in major cities, failure to act from now can have terrible consequences.

A lockdown is far from an ideal situation, but it appears that the Sindh government’s decision is rooted in epidemiology. The Delta variant is rapidly spreading across the country. On average, one patient transmits the virus to five persons. In some districts of Sindh, the Delta detection ratio has reached 33pc — proof of how exponentially this variant spreads and what it can mean for the country’s limited healthcare infrastructure. If the Sindh government does not manage to slow down the spread now, the coming weeks will see a collapse of hospitals.

Read: Unvaccinated individuals make up more than 85pc of patients admitted to ICUs in Karachi

As the provinces prepare for another wave of coronavirus infections, it is imperative for both the federal and provincial government to ramp up vaccinations. Thus far, 6.3m citizens have been fully vaccinated, and though the government is making an effort to increase the daily jabs, Pakistan’s target of vaccinating 70m adults will not be easy.

As the gap between the vaccinated and unvaccinated is slowly reduced, the authorities must be vigilant about disease spread and enforce strict SOPs. It is a shame that officials failed to restrict the movement of infected international passengers in Karachi, with some escaping or being allowed to leave quarantine despite having Covid-19. Health officials at designated quarantine hospitals say passengers over the last three months who tested positive somehow hoodwinked the authorities. What is worse is that 14 Delta-infected passengers were ordered to be released after calls from high-ups. Negligence and VIP culture contributed to the spread of the Delta variant in Karachi, and the resultant lockdown is the high price that citizens have to pay.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2021

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