THE National Command and Operation Centre’s recent recommendation that people wear masks at crowded public places and healthcare facilities is a reminder that, despite the gains made against Covid-19 — thanks to global vaccination campaigns — the threat from the virus is far from over. The NCOC said that the national positivity rate was almost 3pc, with some patients in critical condition, though it did not report any deaths from the infection. It is encouraging that the authorities are focusing on testing, and following the protocols put in place during previous Covid-19 waves. Though the health minister claimed there will be testing and screening of passengers at all airports, it is at this stage not clear how well these measures will be implemented. It is important that the authorities remain vigilant, not only by following the infection’s trajectory and community spread in the country, but also by keeping an eye on reports of variants and hospitalisations abroad. There are reports of a new variant in Israel, for example, which have prompted health officials there to raise concerns. In India, too, cases are rising, a development which has prompted the authorities in neighbouring Nepal to urge caution. Though reports show that the symptoms so far are mild, given how quickly the virus mutates, officials cannot afford to be complacent. A recent WHO statement warned that Covid-19 “continues to evolve”.
The world paid a very high price when the pandemic first hit, causing the loss of millions of lives and livelihoods. The horrors from that time serve as reminders that complacency and ignorance are simply not options. As the world, including developing countries such as Pakistan, grapple with multiple crises, and budgets for healthcare sectors get strained, health authorities and governments everywhere must know that no compromises can be made when it comes to guarding against Covid-19. In an increasingly interconnected world, the failure of one country can reverse the gains made against coronavirus for all nations.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2023
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