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…and counting

Pakistan has now surpassed the grim milestone of one thousand deaths from the coronavirus. Government officials are right in claiming that the overall number of deaths here, compared to other countries, has been rather low. But then they should also see other data sets that are coming out, which indicate that Pakistan’s daily count of new infections is now among the highest in the world. And it must worry the government that such trends are being confirmed just when we are jumping head first into a very ambitious relaxation of the lockdown. That is true especially if you look at the way people are disregarding even the most basic safety protocols and mixing about as if the threat is actually mitigated by forming large groups in small spaces, especially shopping markets.
Yet however little the federal government, or even the provincial governments for that matter, helped with the initial quarantine, the decision is out of everybody’s hands now. The Supreme Court has found it necessary to deliver the lasting verdict itself, and pretty much ruled out anything even resembling a lockdown going forward. While time will judge how smart this particular episode of possible judicial overreach will prove to be, it will be interesting to see how far relevant authorities are able to implement a crucial part to the order, that everything should be opened while ensuring that necessary safety SOPs are observed. Since it is going to be difficult, if not impossible, to do that considering how little regard average people in our country have shown for such measures, it will also be interesting to see what the court does about it.
Let’s not forget that all the time we are experimenting with the relaxation, the disease will be spreading and people, unfortunately, will be dying. Both infections and deaths have risen sharply over the last month or so, which shows a very disturbing trajectory. Medical authorities, whose murmurs of discontent about such verdicts have had to be kept within safe confines for obvious reasons, must now prepare for their own worst case scenario. It’s one thing for authorities, or the court, to say that one thing didn’t work out, despite the best intentions, so another can now be tried. But for doctors the fallout will overwhelm hospitals and deprive a lot of people suffering from other diseases of their services. On another front, it will also mean another shutdown and yet worse financial squeeze. The one thousand mark should provide authorities with a somber moment of reflection about what is really needed.



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