Wednesday May 18, 2022

Alarming spread

By Editorial Board
January 19, 2022

The fast spread of Covid-19 is not something any country can take lightly, with daily new cases of coronavirus having surpassed the 5000 mark. This is the highest we have hit in six months since August 2021. With 5,034 new cases in 24 hours on January 17, 2022, alarm bells should be ringing across the country. One hopes that an appropriate response from both the government and citizens will be forthcoming now – sooner than later. The daily caseload has been surging for the past many weeks but there has not been a corresponding sense of urgency as regards vaccination and testing. The positivity rate is already approaching 10 percent and Sindh is leading the pack with nearly 3500 new coronavirus cases in a day on Jan 17. Punjab is close to 1000 new cases a day, whereas Islamabad with its meagre population still has nearly 500 cases daily. And this is only those which are reported after screening.

The reality is that there may be a large number of cases that are going unreported just because most people in Pakistan simply cannot afford the exorbitant cost of corona testing in a private lab. What we need to see is a greater effort at ensuring government-led free Covid testing – and some regulation of private testing whose rates make very little sense now that we are through two years of this pandemic. Moreover, all entry points to the country – airports, seaports and land crossings – should have testing arrangements for all and quarantine facilities for those that test positive. There is a need to establish more vaccination centers across the country as well. And most importantly there is a need to ensure timely salaries for all vaccinators. There have been reports of vaccine staff going on strike because they have not been paid months in salaries – which is criminal on so many levels, given the crippling inflation as well as the rising Covid cases.

There is also a need to ensure stricter vigilance and monitoring to stop transmission of new and old variants. All respective district administrations and health officers must test and treat infected people and ensure they remain in quarantine for the required period. Adherence to the SoPs is crucial in this fight against the deadly virus. There is a need to strictly follow the guidelines and strategies that the WHO has been suggesting for over two years now. Pakistan needs precautionary measures at all levels of administration, businesses, commercial activities, departmental stores, educational institutions, financial hubs such as banks, and at general gatherings, public places and transports. Social distancing measures and wearing of masks must be made mandatory and hand-washing must be encouraged. With all seriousness the government and the people of Pakistan must buckle up before this wave becomes uncontrollable.