Inevitable is happening

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IN face of gross neglect by citizens and authorities concerned in adopting necessary precautions against rapidly spreading Corona Virus infections in the country, government has been forced to tighten restrictions and involve Pakistan Army to help tackle worsening situation.

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday urged people of Pakistan to strictly follow the COVID-19 guidelines, warning that another nationwide lockdown would be imposed if spiralling Corona Virus crisis continue to deteriorate.

Addressing the nation after chairing a meeting of the National Coordination Committee, the highest national forum to tackle the pandemic, Khan said the Army has been asked to help police to implement social-distancing guidelines in the country to contain the spread of Corona Virus.

It is high time that each and every citizen pays heed to repeated calls of the top leadership of the country about the need to follow relevant standard operating procedures (SOPs) as overall positivity rate in Pakistan has touched 11% while it is close to 30% in some cities of KP and Punjab.

The warning from the Prime Minister came as total number of cases has reached 784,108 and COVID-19 death toll touched 16,842.

Another 4,652 patients were in critical condition and reports from across the country speak of hospitals reaching their full admission capacity.

That is why, in a tweet, President Arif Alvi too has urged people to strictly follow the SOPs commenting that Corona Virus situation in the country has reached a dangerous stage.

There are genuine concerns that Pakistan might be caught in a similar situation as India where Virus appears to have spiralled out of control and healthcare system is staggering amid shortage of oxygen and medicines while crematoriums are being overwhelmed with arrival of dead bodies.

The massive spurt in India is being blamed on government for lowering guard after prematurely claiming victory against the pandemic during the previous wave and the same is true of Pakistan as the country rolled back restrictions in a haste resulting in critical surge in the spread of Virus just in weeks.

There is no doubt that earlier government decisions were motivated by its concerns about economic fallout of prolonged lockdowns and restrictions but we are heading for a more alarming situation due to laxity.

The Prime Minister has all along been urging people to follow SOPs voluntarily so that there is no need for re-imposition of restrictions but these expectations have not materialised.

In this backdrop, the Prime Minister regretted growing disregard for SOPs that if followed in letter and in spirit, would help the government contain the highly contagious Virus.

He called upon the nation to show same resilience, commitment and sense of responsibility that it had shown during the first wave of the pandemic, otherwise lockdowns are not ruled out.

In fact, the policy of smart lockdowns also paid both in terms of checking the spread of the Virus and continuation of economic activity but it was not followed with original zeal during last several weeks and as a consequence the situation is getting out of control.

Though some circles believe that involvement of Army in enforcement of SOPs was not a wise move as it will have its own ramifications but it has become inevitable in view of helplessness of the civil administration and police in ensuring proper compliance of precautionary measures like social distancing and wearing of masks.

It is also encouraging that authorities are also keeping an eye on all aspects of the problem as Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Friday extended travel restrictions for international passengers arriving from 23 countries in its Category C till April 30 and evolving situation might require further extension in the ban.

There is no other choice but to follow SOPs and tighten restrictions, as vaccination drive is not progressing at desired pace due to shortage of supplies.

The shortages are not Pakistan-specific as reports say COVAX, a global initiative aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines could provide only 20% of supplies targeted till May this year.

The PM too has acknowledged that Pakistan was facing shortage of Covid-19 vaccine as a result of which target of meeting the goal of herd immunity would take at least a year to be achieved.

People, therefore, have two options for the foreseeable future — follow SOPs voluntarily or face imposed restrictions.

 

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