WITH the National Command and Operation Centre wrapped up and more than 80pc of the eligible population vaccinated against Covid-19, the pandemic appears to be approaching its end in Pakistan. So, was there any need for KP to extend the health emergency for another three months? In fact, it is a wise move and underscores a cautious approach, given that Covid-19 cases are still surging in China and the UK, among other countries. The NCOC was performing several functions, ranging from disease surveillance to providing institutional support to public and private health set-ups. With the NCOC no longer operational, all Covid-related matters once again rest on the shoulders of the federal and provincial governments. The KP government’s pre-emptive decision to extend the emergency is perhaps grounded in the reasoning that in the event of a spike in cases, it would be easier to mobilise the required resources. In this, it has followed the advice of the WHO, which is against countries lifting all Covid-related restrictions. Last month, the global health body clearly stated that the pandemic was far from over and described the steep rise in cases in countries such as China and North Korea as just the “tip of the iceberg”. The case of the UK is a cautionary tale: Prime Minister Boris Johnson lifted all Covid-related curbs in February, but a record number of cases of Omicron sub-variants are being reported across the country.
Meanwhile, Shanghai is in strict lockdown as the number of daily Covid cases has surpassed the peak in Wuhan where the virus originated. Shanghai officials describe the situation as “extremely grim”. Cases are also rising sharply in the US, with 1,500 new cases a day being reported in New York. Given the situation abroad, health authorities in the other three provinces too should remain vigilant, while still conducting aggressive testing, and calling on all to be vaccinated or administered booster shots. The virulence of the infection may be dissipating, but it is still better to be safe than sorry.
Published in Dawn, April 9th, 2022