Wednesday September 22, 2021

Combating Covid

July 20, 2021

Pakistan appears to have begun a struggle to deal with the growing number of Covid-19 cases it is encountering in the country. While the country had managed to keep case numbers relatively low compared to the rest of the world till now, the Delta variant now appears to be taking its toll and pushing up the number of people infected by the illness as compared to past months. We already know that the Delta variant is present in Pakistan. Other variants are also believed to be circulating in parts of the country. On Sunday, out of 85 tests selected for genotype testing, 56 were found to be positive for delta in Lahore alone. This is alarming given that the Delta spreads far more quickly than earlier variants and can grow by massive numbers within just days, often affecting all members of a household rather than just two or three, as was the previous pattern. Pakistan currently has 50,000 active Covid-19 cases.

As is the case with the rest of the world, vaccination is the key weapon available to combat Covid-19. Despite campaigns and media coverage, the vaccination rate in Pakistan remains low with about 500,000 doses being given out each day. While this is an improvement over previous months, the fact is that only two percent of Pakistan’s population of 220 million people is fully vaccinated; 4.5 million people will not be enough to prevent an all-out break-out, flooding hospitals and leaving Pakistan in a perilous situation similar to that faced by India and now Indonesia. We can only hope that such a calamity can be warded off. This will happen only if we can vaccinate more people each day and bring vaccination into every colony and every home, perhaps even by putting in place mobile teams such as those which deal with polio and other illnesses visiting households on a door-to-door basis.

We must also take measures to ensure that those without CNICs can get vaccinated. The current system requires the sending of the CNIC number to a designated helpline which then allocates the vaccination centre and the place where the person can receive his or her vaccination. The reality is that many Pakistanis, most of them women, do not possess CNICs. Then there are the many who are stateless and living in Pakistan for decades. All these people cannot be left out of the vaccination process. Pakistan must somehow ensure that at least 70 to 80 percent of people are vaccinated before the virus overtakes us and inflicts terrible damage on the country.