Lockdown again?

 
May 28, 2020

Coronavirus cases in Pakistan have now reached nearly 60,000, with over 1,225 deaths in the country, leading the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor Dr Zafar Mirza to warn that the government...

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Coronavirus cases in Pakistan have now reached nearly 60,000, with over 1,225 deaths in the country, leading the Prime Minister’s Special Advisor Dr Zafar Mirza to warn that the government could impose a new, stricter lockdown to curb the sharply rising trajectory. Pakistan is not alone in its struggle. But we have to say our attempts to combat the virus which causes serious disease and in a small number of cases death have been particularly chaotic. The country dithered from the very beginning in whether or not to impose a lockdown. The confusion between a curfew and a lockdown persisted, and the little lockdown there was in place was lifted before Eid, after which we saw people in mosques and markets. Pakistan’s curve of coronavirus cases has shown a consistent surge in the past couple of weeks. This upward trend is alarming and we may end up experiencing a Brazil-like mushrooming in the number of deaths. The WHO has also expressed its fears about a second wave of the virus as its epicenter, or so to say, is moving from the developed countries of Europe and America to developing and emerging countries such as Brazil, India, and even Pakistan.

Had Pakistan been able to lockdown more forcefully and gain greater cooperation from its people in the first place, we may not have been in the situation we now confront. A new lockdown will certainly be met with hostility from traders, given that their pressure was a factor in the easing of the first so-called lockdown while social distancing was virtually not observed at all despite the protocols agreed to for mosques and other places. As many had predicted, we now have a curve which shows a sharp rise in the number of cases occurring daily. Some suggest the actual number could be higher given the rate of testing and differences in how provinces are conducting this. Perhaps we could have saved people from death or at least a great deal of suffering had a proper lockdown been enforced.

A new lockdown will be tough on people as life is disrupted for an indefinite period. But this time, there must be greater effort to unite on the matter and send out a message that shows agreement between all the provinces and all the leadership. The confusion seen in the past did nothing to help. It simply confused people and we now have a situation in which people believe the virus is no longer a threat. While the government and the NDMA have promised enough protective equipment and ventilators, this is not the point. We should have been able to avoid reaching this stage. The constant see-sawing could lead us straight into an abyss of terrible disease and disaster, worst of all affecting the poor whom the prime minister has consistently said he wishes to protect. Instead, the easing of the lockdown has most benefited industrialists, businessmen and traders. We now need to think of the people. No lockdown can be effective if people don’t understand why this is necessary and cooperate with the tough measures that can change life in the country.



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