PAKISTAN is battling hard against ‘the second wave’ of novel coronavirus after intense spike was witnessed in the outbreak of the virus in the country with the onset of winter season. With limited resources and weak health infrastructure, the ‘first wave’ was subsided with less than the expected human and economic losses due the timely measures, well-conceived strategies and collective-response of the nation.
Similarly, much has been learnt during the course of ‘first wave’ of virus in terms of formulation and implementation of the strategies to overcome the challenge. However, due to the rising intensity and mutation of the virus, ‘the second wave’ seems more serious for both the health and economy of the country. Therefore, once again, the hanging sword of the virus has started affecting lives of the people across the globe including Pakistan. The government could only overcome the challenge with coordinated efforts of the authorities concerned, media, civil society, and the public. The socially interacting distancing has to be ensured to restrict the spread of the virus.
The public is time and again sensitized to act responsibly by strictly adhering to the health guidelines under the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to contain the spread of virus. Only implementation of safety measures on national scale could help protect the masses from the catastrophe of ‘second wave’. The virus is transmitted either through direct contact with the infected person or with the droplets of the infected person’s cough or sneeze, or touching the surface that has cough or sneeze droplets. And later on touching the mouth or face with the infected hands as the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for several hours.
It is a must to ensure wearing of medical masks, proper physical distance, avoidance of handshake and hugging to reduce the risk of coronavirus. Likewise, the government has to strictly impose the strategies of ‘smart lockdowns’ in the country. The targeted tracking, testing and quarantine mechanism is vital to overcome the growing number of Covid-19 cases by sealing the areas of infected cluster population (hotspots). The virus has also challenged the core values of socialization by forcing people to change the paradigm of their social interaction with a new norm of ‘social distancing’ — learning the new mode of life. It has urged the citizens to unlearn the old ways and learn to adapt with the ‘new ways of life’.
In order to contain the outbreak, the government has tightened the restrictions by taking several initiatives. Firstly, the wearing of face masks was made mandatory in public. Secondly, the large scale public events were banned while cinemas, theaters, and shrines have been closed. Thirdly, partial restrictions has also been imposed on staffers working in office, outdoor gatherings including political rallies, closure of all parks by 6pm and shopping centers, markets, banquet hall and restaurants by 10pm. Finally, the government has announced extended winter vacations to cope with the resurgence in coronavirus cases.
According to the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the number of infections has risen threefold since October 12 and warned another lockdown if the SOPs continued to be violated. The NCOC has also launched an official WhatsApp number to report photos and location of Covid-19 SOPs related violations by the public. As per the anecdotal observations of some medical practitioners, the intensity of ‘the second wave’ of coronavirus was more lethal with higher death ratio. The infection rate of coronavirus has been increased manifold during the last few days. People should be sensitized through mass awareness campaigns to take precautionary measures to halt the spread of virus.
Pakistan has taken timely measures and played a responsible role to mitigate the virus in the first wave. It would become victorious to combat the ‘second wave’ only if the administration could strictly enforce the corona safety guidelines properly. Therefore, the online option of teaching, learning, and office work should be utilized to the fullest during the new normal to overcome the spike in cases.
—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.