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July 14, 2020

Continuing pandemic

Editorial

 
July 14, 2020

Around eight months after the coronavirus first appeared in China, the world has realized just what it is dealing with. It is clear now that nations which put in place a tough, early lockdown have fared the best in controlling the virus. These nations include Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand. Sweden’s attempt to allow herd immunity to save people essentially failed, with other Scandinavian countries that did impose lockdowns are faring far better. However, the WHO has said it cannot see nations succeeding in wiping out Covid-19 until a vaccine is developed. While there are three different scientific studies on to develop a vaccine which could be launched before the end of this year, experts warn that a poorly tested, poorly understood vaccine should be looked at with caution. Studies on the virus continue globally, with one from Johns Hopkins University suggesting herd immunity cannot work.

There are also warnings that new outbreaks of similar viruses may take place at intervals once again creating the panic we have already seen. Today, the US leads the world in the number of corona infections as well as deaths experienced by any nation. The refusal by governors of certain states such as Florida to make mask-wearing compulsory did not help matters. There is no real evidence that Covid-19 is going away anytime soon in the US, and President Donald Trump’s bizarre approach to the problem, at times undermining the risks the virus could bring, did not help. The US economy has taken a huge blow, as has its education and other facets of life. In Pakistan, the government and the chairman of the NCOC Asad Umar have claimed success, stating that the enforcement of SOPs have led to the graph of new infections and deaths falling. There has however been a fierce debate in the country amongst health experts over the number of tests actually carried out each day and the numbers being reported. There is also conjecture that people have stopped going in for tests or visiting hospitals, with many choosing to treat less severe cases at home.

The question now is whether Pakistan will succeed in keeping its graph stable or enabling the fall we would all so like to see. At the present time, the decline in cases is not dramatic. There are also concerns that a new spike may come with Eidul Azha falling at the end of July as people travel once again to hometowns and meet families – and with Muharram at the end of August. We can only hope and pray for good management and good sense from the federal government. So far, we have seen too much petty point scoring between the federal government and the provinces, and a consistently confused policy on lockdowns and other measures. The future then for Pakistan and the world is uncertain. It is not clear when a vaccine may be developed, although the most optimistic experts hope it will be in place by the end of the year. Till then, there can only be a policy of better awareness raising, an insistence on following SOPs including social distancing and the wearing of masks and alongside this steps to save the poor people of our country who the prime minister consistently said he wanted to spare from hardship by establishing schemes to give the tens of thousands who have suddenly lost jobs sources of income, loans or other kinds of safety nets so that they are able to sustain themselves and their families.