Going back to normalcy

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The National Coordination Commi­ttee (NCC) needs to tread carefully while going into the phased reopening of businesses in the COVID-19 pandemic era. The declining number of cases, and deaths stemming from the coronavirus-related issues, though suggest the gradual diminishing of the virus, it will be a sane strategy to watch the things closely before going for the phased resumption of businesses. A point to ponder in this regard is the sudden surge in the number of new COVID-19 cases after Eidul Azha across Punjab. Though the hike is not so alarming as the everyday average cases had dropped to below 100 in the pre-Eid week, but now the number is raging around 300. If the trend persists for a few days and an increase in the number is witnessed, it is definitely the second wave of the virus. In the latest cases, Lahore tops with 100 cases against 52 a day before, Rawalpindi with 58 cases against 54 and so on. This is happening despite a glaring fact that Punjab went for a blanket eight-day lockdown during Eid days. Other provinces did not enforce any such restrictions but a similar trend is being witnessed there too.
The NCC, however, envisages the ease of restrictions on the tourism sector from August 8 and subsequently on restaurants and transport sector, allied sectors of the tourism activity, from August 10. By mid-September educational institutions and marriage halls would be functional – partially or fully. Similarly, restaurants and cafes will be opening their services – dine-in and takeaway – from August 10; public parks, theatres, cinemas, amusement parks, expo centres and bea­uty parlours will also be functional from next week. In the sports sector, tournaments and matches involving non-contact sports will be in action but without the presence of an audience. The decisions have the blessings of the four provinces, meaning there has been no opposition from the PPP-led government in Sindh. It is good to note that restrictions on the number of people allowed to travel by trains, planes and buses and the mandatory gap between the passengers will remain in place till September. The observation of the SOPs is the key to fight the pandemic as there has been no formal launch of a credible vaccine. So far, trials of vaccines have been on in different parts of the world, including Pakistan, on COVID-19 patients. The resumption of business is long due but we are far from complete victory. The government needs to examine the post-Eid numbers.