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September 20, 2020

The virus returns

Editorial

 
September 20, 2020

It has been noted that cases of Covid-19 have been creeping up in the country after reduction over the last few months. Seven-hundred cases were reported on Thursday, a much greater number than any reported over the last one month. In Punjab alone, 101 cases and three deaths were reported. There is confusion over whether there is any linkage of these new cases to the reopening of schools. However, Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood has said school will not be closed down until there is any real crisis in that sector. He has said education is vital for children and it will not be jeopardized, while the plan for reopening phase by phase has been worked out with all the provincial governments. It should be noted that the Sindh government has already said that the plan to open grade six to eight from September 21 will be delayed for another week. Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani, after inspections, has closed down at least eight schools in the province notably in Karachi and Hyderabad for not following SOPs and after the detection of Covid-19 cases in these areas.

The problem however is not limited to Pakistan alone. There has been a slight upturn in coronavirus cases across the world, most notably in Europe, and also Israel where new measures are now being contemplated. There are concerns that the rise could turn into a new crisis with governments forced to impose new lockdowns and new restrictions. Such restrictions are already being planned in France and Spain and possibly in the UK to curb the spread of the virus, which has continued to grow in numbers across the world.

Meanwhile, according to a study carried out by a specialized institution in Karachi, there is no evidence that the people of the city have developed herd immunity against the disease. It is noted that about 36 percent of the population had immunity, or seroprevalence, which prevented them from acquiring the disease. About 60 to 70 percent of people need to acquire this in order for herd immunity to come into effect. However, there is a possibility, according to experts, that the number of those carrying the virus could increase giving them immunity. In the meanwhile, there are questions about what should happen next. Pakistan has so far been joyous about its apparent success against the coronavirus. Certainly the figures are impressive compared to the rest of South Asia. But the concern that the virus could return is now very real. This is also linked to the change in season and the return of seasonal flu alongside other viruses. Viruses generally thrive in colder conditions. We will need to review strategy and keep a very careful eye on the situation to ensure that we do not become caught up in a new Covid-19 crisis, with schools and children also involved this time round.