As the tally reaches 7678 in the last 24 hours, Pakistan is reporting the highest number of Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began. Within a matter of the first two weeks of the year, we went from a positivity rate that was below 1 to what is now 12 percent. This is extremely concerning, especially because the response to the fifth wave has been rather lax.
The government has now implemented stricter measures but one may question why it took for circumstances to get this bad before something was done on an institutional level. This is a health emergency and there is no time or space for us to be lacklustre in our approach.
When taking a closer look at the fifth wave, we will see that certain cities are knee-deep in it. Karachi for instance, has reported the highest positivity rate ever of 46.58 percent. This effectively means that on average, almost half of the population of the city is ridden with Covid-19. Karachi is followed by Muzaffarabad at 25 percent, Hyderabad at 17.27 percent, Islamabad at 15.37 percent and Lahore at 14.25 percent. This entails immense pressure being put on hospitals, as well as the resources of the country. There was an immediate need for restrictions to be imposed but by delaying the inevitable, we have brought ourselves to the point which is now proving to be just as urgent as when the pandemic began two years ago.
The main focus of the authorities must lie on implementation; restrictions like a ban on indoor gatherings and dining have been put in place. The government also instructed schools to reduce in-person teaching to 50 percent for classes under the 12 grade and a strict check on vaccine requirements before enrolment. Rules may have been imposed by whether they will be adhered to is the real question. So far, the people have been rather negligent about following protocols. They must be reminded of the urgency of the situation and that the cost of failing to follow preventative measures affects them tremendously.
Lastly, the government has done well with the process of vaccinations, but this is not the immediate solution; only a long-term one. Vaccines will never prevent transmission and the only way to do that is through enforcing strict measures—like smart lockdowns—in major hotspots.