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March 1, 2021

Normalcy and vaccination

Editorial

 
March 1, 2021

The Federal Education Ministry has announced that from today all schools in the country will go back to a normal five-day week. At the same time, the National Command and Operation Centre has lifted most Covid-19 restrictions, allowing indoor marriages and permitting local bodies elections to be held in May, as well as easing the timings during which businesses can operate. Of course, we recognise that all things must go back to normal at some point, and especially in education children cannot be kept away from schools indefinitely. There is already much concern amongst parents about the harm this is doing to their education and to their preparation for exams, some of which are already underway. But at the same time, we need to understand how we are rolling out the Covid-19 vaccine.

While some vaccine rollout has begun, notably among healthcare professionals, and the elderly aged over 60 and 65 have been asked to dial the government helpline number and set up an appointment, there is concern that very few people have actually received the vaccine. One of the reasons, of course, is that the full rollout is to begin after March, when more people will be able to set up appointments and seek vaccinations. There is also an effort underway to enable people over 60 to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is considered safer for the elderly. But it would be wise to clarify details of this amongst people and also stamp out rumours which float around not only locally but around the world about the safety and efficacy of vaccinations. For example, the concern in South Africa over the effectiveness of some vaccines against the strain prevalent there has alarmed people and convinced some that vaccines are not able to wipe out certain kinds of the Covid-19 virus, or indeed are not effective at all. More information, more clarification and a bigger effort to deliver the vaccine to all, so that they can safely return to school and work, is required.

This is especially necessary as the opening up of restrictions including the opening of schools and businesses comes on a day when for the first time in weeks, over 700 cases were recorded in Punjab with 50 deaths. Across the country, a large number of cases was also reported with the number standing at over 1,000. This of course is a concern. We are still carrying out very few tests and really have no idea of how many people may be infected, especially outside major urban centres. People themselves are often reluctant to report that they have acquired Covid-19 or have been tested for it. All this suggests that we need to be cautious and realistic in our policy as we move ahead. Things cannot stay closed forever. And life must return everywhere in the country to normal patterns. But at the same time, people must be protected and the pandemic halted by ensuring vaccines reach everyone and at the global level are given out to poorer countries as well. The UN Security Council unanimously agreed on a resolution on this on Friday. The new improvement in ties between the US and China aided this resolution. We hope it can enable the world to be vaccinated as quickly as possible.