IT seems like we will be spending another Eid under the shadow of disease.
With the national Covid-19 positivity rate elevated, critical cases showing a steady rise and widespread worries that we may soon be enveloped by a sixth wave, health officials are becoming more vocal about the possibility of a major coronavirus outbreak during the Eidul Azha celebrations.
The wedding season, currently experiencing a lull due to Eid, is also expected to resume in earnest once the festivities are over, presenting new opportunities for the virus to spread.
Health authorities have been urging people to observe social distancing and take other precautions during social interactions, but the warnings seem to be falling on deaf ears.
In Karachi, where the positivity rate remains considerably elevated, public response to appeals to practise greater safety seems overwhelmingly dismissive. The enforcement of preventive SOPs remains weak, with citizens frequenting public spaces including train stations, bus terminals and shopping centres without wearing masks or caring for social distancing protocols.
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In the midst of all this, another public health concern has reared its head. There is a heightened risk of an outbreak of the Congo virus, which is transmitted from the bite of ticks that attach themselves to sheep, goats, cows, buffaloes and other livestock.
A number of cases have already been reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and it is feared the disease could spread wider due to the movement of livestock to markets all over the country. People have been thronging the markets ahead of Eid to purchase animals, yet few seem aware of the danger they could be exposed to.
The government needs to shake off its sloth and be more proactive than it currently is.
Pakistan successfully countered previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic with smart lockdowns and strict enforcement of safety protocols. This time should be no different.
Yes, the newer variants of the coronavirus do not seem as deadly as older ones, and there are fewer hospitalisations and deaths, but we should not be tempting fate. Covid-19 remains a highly transmissible disease, and those people who suffer from comorbidities are at significant risk of experiencing a fatal infection. The risk of a new mutation is also ever-present, which means there is no room for complacency.
Likewise, people need to be educated better about the Congo virus so that they can take precautions to protect themselves and their families. Experts recommend wearing gloves while interacting with and sacrificing animals, and also while handling fresh meat to avoid being bitten.
As urged previously, robust plans also need to be in place to clean up and properly dispose of all animal remains on Eid days to prevent any other health risks from arising.
The confluence of so many disease risks should be taken seriously. The government must shrug off its lackadaisical attitude and work harder at preventing a national health crisis.
Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2022