Growing Delta threat

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We are back to the brink of a Covid-19 disaster. With just over 4.5m citizens in the country fully vaccinated, millions more are vulnerable to the dangerous virus. The Delta variant — known to be up to 60pc more transmissible than other strains — is spreading like wildfire across cities. The occupancy rate for oxygen beds in Gilgit, Skardu, Karachi and Muzaffarabad is 58pc, 50pc, 41pc and 33pc respectively. Being the most densely populated city, Karachi’s Covid cases are growing on the heels of the reopening of indoor dining and gatherings. The decision by the provincial government to announce a new closure is sensible, but it was unwise to allow such gatherings given that large swathes of the population are unvaccinated. In Gilgit and Skardu, where tourism has seen an uptick, cases are exploding. These areas have a much weaker healthcare infrastructure than bigger cities, which means that the number of beds and critical care units with ventilators available to sick patients is far lower. In the AJK capital, where political rallies are in full swing ahead of next week’s election, cases are steadily rising. These are all ominous signs. Not too long ago, the world watched aghast as a similar situation unfolded in India, only to plunge the country and millions into a Covid-19 nightmare. Religious festivals, political rallies, denial of the virus, and an overall devil-may-care attitude towards the pandemic crippled India, harming both lives and livelihoods. It was a cautionary tale for everyone in South Asia who mistakenly believed that a young population, heat and miracle immunity would somehow provide protection. Those myths have been long shattered.
The government must proactively work on both immunisation, daily tests and prevention to protect the country from plunging into a disaster. The vaccination drive must be sped up, as just over 6pc of the government’s target of 70m people have received both jabs. As Eid approaches, the message from both the federal and provincial governments should be to stay indoors and limit the spread of the virus. Smart lockdowns should be imposed in infection hotspots. The national positivity ratio has crossed 5pc, and it will continue to rise given what we know about the high transmissibility of the Delta variant. The public messaging should remind citizens how foolish it would be to ignore SOPs, and that, if precaution is not taken now, a lockdown will have to be imposed to prevent all-out doom.