Defeating COVID

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Like it or not, the third wave of the pandemic that has wreaked havoc across the globe is back on our doorstep. As Pakistan stumbles through this alarming rise in infections (there have been reports of as many as 4500 new cases in the last 24 hours), the government is busy raising the alarm about crossing the highest-cases peak soon. Stiff health and safety guidelines have been put in place by the National Command and Operation Centre; tightening restrictions on public gatherings and commercial activities. Meanwhile, a broader lockdown has also been imposed in high-risk cities across Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. However, our long-drawn-out fight has made the writing on the wall crystal-clear: no amount of state interventions can work unless EVERYONE gets serious about complying with the SOPs. The last few months have unfortunately been witness to the public largely throwing caution to the wind. Many people still think it is perfectly fine to plan grand weddings. Looking at the season of endless soirees, especially in Karachi and Lahore, one may get the impression that Pakistanis are somehow immune to the virus. The same flouting of pandemic restrictions was seen last year when no number of police troops could stop people from cramming into shops (many without masks) in the days ahead of Eid.
Though we may be busy screaming, “Death to Corona,” the deleterious signs claim otherwise. The alarming surge has already resulted in 67 fatalities–47 in Punjab alone. More terrifying is the drastic increase in cases among children. Known to be immune to the virus in the earlier waves, over 5300 children are said to have contracted the infection in Lahore alone. While Islamabad is busy evaluating which cities should the school-closure be extended to, a spike in infections among children would be disastrous for entire families. We have already seen how older children brought the virus back from their classrooms to their highly-susceptible grandparents. Pakistan is not ready to brave an outbreak lurking in its educational institutes.
While the state is struggling to keep its vaccination campaign going unhindered, we can only stop the third wave from washing up our shore if we get serious about precautionary measures. Now is not the time to let complacency set in. Given our previous obsession with flouting simple pandemic rules, the government is spot-on in announcing fines for not wearing masks. The deadlier 1919 episode of Influenza was all the more inauspicious for regions (such as Australia) that had escaped the perils of the first wave. While the world celebrated our miraculous flattening of the wave last summer, herd immunity could not find the right path to knock on our door. Ergo, we cannot afford to sit idle. Safety protocols and inoculation drive remain the only way forward. Together, we stand! Together, we strive!