As the third wave of Covid-19 runs rampant, it is clear that the public has grown an apathy towards the virus
Anniversaries are often uncanny occasions, inherently dependent on what they celebrate or commemorate. It has now been more than a year since Covid-19 arrived in Pakistan. There was noise, anxiety, nervousness, poverty and so much more. Yet, one thing took precedence over all of that: human life. Since then, much has been discussed about the spread of the virus and its implications. Forums about the economic peril coupled with it, a distinct sense of dread over the lives it is consuming and the unease of keeping a mask on at all times, all have been talked about. However, as memories of the first lockdown get hazier, it is becoming clearer than ever that people’s approach towards this fatal virus has changed.
The pandemic is perhaps our generation’s defining moment. It is likely that there would be no occurrence that tops the coronavirus outbreak in its significance. Therefore, it is reasonable that upon its emergence, there were a lot of different emotions. “I was mostly happy in the beginning (of the lockdown) that we had holidays,” says Hassan Saeed, an A-Level student, upon being asked for his original reaction to Covid-19. There was a sense of uncertainty. Whatever the emotion was, it didn’t last long. Saeed says, “as the situation became clearer, my reaction changed from an immature enthusiasm to a very horrifying form of loneliness and helplessness.”
This pandemic is, perhaps, our generation’s defining moment.
Standard operating procedures (SOPs) in general and masks in particular, were, of course, thought of as inconveniences. They were thought of as momentary disruptions in an ongoing life, here for a couple of weeks. However, the SOPs soon started inducing claustrophobia, as students were made to stay at home for extended periods. Areej Akhtar, a first-year student at LUMS, describes her experience in lockdown: “The parents became overbearing and the siblings (became) almost unbearable for me.” She continues, “it got to the point where we started intruding on each other’s space, something that had not happened in the pre-Covid world”. There has been a period of adaptation in the community. People have started feeling (relatively) more comfortable with the SOPs. As Maira Riaz, a university student, states: “Even though these SOPs were introduced at the beginning of the pandemic, a lot of people seemed to have a hard time adjusting to them. However, now that they’re so integral to our lives, they don’t require conscious effort from us.”
While an extended lockdown brought about a greater acceptance for the SOPs in the general public, it also desensitised a lot of people to Covid-19 and its impacts. As the third wave of Covid-19 runs rampant, it is clear that the public has grown an apathy towards the virus. Pakistan’s positivity rate now stands at 10 percent, which is an alarming number. Yet, the fear and anxiety the first wave caused are not visible. Of course, a lot of the apathy could be because of the over-exposure to Covid-19 in the news. A number of factors are at play here. Saad Khan, a political science and economics major at LSE, gives his view on the issue: “I’d say that it (the failure to follow the SOPs now) is a mixture of restlessness, superiority-complex-fuelled naivety and a general shirking of responsibility”.
Whether it is the media, restlessness or just the government’s failure in sustaining a narrative about the virus, there is no denying that the response to Covid-19 has changed significantly over the past year. While a vaccine dose for everyone remains the eventual solution, people need to recognise that the pandemic is still around and many are still dying of it.
The writer is a student at LUMS and a reporter for The LUMS Post