Pakistan after the lockdown


In Pakistan, first COVID-19 case was reported in February 2020. Soon after, Sindh government had announced closure of educational institutions throughout the province. Later on the federal government also followed the suit in the mid of March. Afterwards, owing to spike in the COVID-19 cases, Sindh announced province wide complete lockdown, while other provinces: Balochistan and KPK also announced the lockdown. Punjab had also to follow the steps taken by other provinces. However, federal government was reluctant and confused about announcing lockdown.
The Prime Minister had repeatedly gone against imposing lockdown citing that people would face hunger and economic situation of the country is not stable enough. Anyway, despite negating the notion of lockdown, federal government had to announce lockdown reluctantly; public transport, trains and flight operations were suspended, congregational prayers were also called off. In such a tumultuous situation, in the mid of Ramazan, federal government with the support and in consultation with the provincial governments announced easing the lockdown; allowed markets to run under SOPs within specified hours, however, public transport continued to remain suspended, but in the last week of Ramazan some trains were operated to facilitate people to travel to their homes.
After easing the lockdown, initially, action was taken against those shops which were not following the SOPs defined by the governments, but later on, people started ignoring SOPs and gradually it became a matter of routine. People were seen roaming about freely without caring about social distancing and precautionary measures. Businesses continued to run, people unaware of SOP and precautions. SOPs were not being followed nowhere in the country. Situation in rural areas and towns was worst. On Eid day, Eid prayers were offered elsewhere in the country, no social distancing was witnessed and social gatherings during Eid days were common. In a nutshell, it will not be wrong to say that people had completely forgotten or ignored the virus.
For now when Eid days are over, the country has seen massive increase in the COVID-19 cases. As of May 27, the cases have surpassed 60,000. According to media reports, hospitals have refused to admit patients as their capacity to keep patients is full. All public and private hospitals in Karachi have announced that they don’t have capacity in their ICUs for new patients. Same news was surfacing on social media about the situation in the hospitals of Islamabad. According to Murtaza Wahab, Special Assistant to Sindh Chief Minister for Information, the number of cases related to children under the age of ten years is over 800 in Sindh.
Situation is getting worse, while people continue to ignore governmental orders. There are also rumours that lockdown would be imposed again because the situation is going out of control. And there is no other way to control rising levels of the pandemic infections, such warnings are surfacing but the highest level of carelessness shown by the people, hence, it is said that the pandemic has already spread everywhere around the country.
The concern is that if we cannot accommodate few thousand patients in our hospitals in present scenario, how we could be able to deal with possible massive increase in infections in days to come. The situation is alarming. Pakistan has neither resources nor capacity to deal with COVID-19 national emergency. It is a fact that even developed nations like the USA, UAE, Russia, Germany and Japan have been unable to deal with the pandemic and bear its consequences then how can a country like Pakistan bear the ravages of the pandemic. It is easier said than done that soon the sufferings would end.
Before it is too late, both people and the federal and provincial governments have to show seriousness. If needed, once again, for brief period of time strict lockdown should be imposed because, unfortunately, we are not a responsible people at all and no other options will work. There is no volunteer compliance related attitude that could be expected from our people. But again, governments alone cannot do anything unless people act responsibly and follow the instructions. It should not be forgotten that ultimately it is the people who will suffer the most in terms of economic woes, health crisis and social unrest. So, it is high time that we realise our responsibility in the midst of the pandemic to avoid severe crisis that is looming large in near future.