- Fears of a second wave in the offing
The people are paying the price for the government’s politically motivated rather than evidence-based decisions to control the coronavirus. On Friday, SAPM Dr Zafar Mirza announced 50 deaths and 2,603 new patients in 24 hours, the highest numbers so far in a single day. With the opening of the entire transport system, tens of thousands of untested urban employees and informal sector workers would be going back to small towns and villages, so far unaffected by Covid-19, to celebrate Eid with relatives. The PTI leadership’s carefree attitude has made the people take the pandemic lightly as shown by their thronging the shopping malls and stores while mostly ignoring the SOPs. One shudders to think of a second wave of coronavirus striking the country after the present one begins to subside in July.
Thanks to the lack of a clear-cut policy to contain the pandemic, the country faces a double jeopardy. Pakistan wasted the opportunity to stop the spread of the virus and bring down the infection and death rate through a strict but short term countrywide lockdown followed by massive testing, quarantining the affected and hospitalising the serious cases followed by the lifting of the lockdown within weeks. According to Dr Mirza, the stock of ventilators and personal protective equipment (PPE) is only sufficient for May. Next month the country would face a shortage unless their local production starts. Pakistan has gifted a planeload of protective gear to the US Army. Does it imply that it has started local production of the items?
While infection and the mortality rate continuing to rise, there is little hope of a revival of the economy which was already in the doldrums before the advent of the pandemic. The economic squeeze has constricted domestic demand while with supply chains choked and lockdowns and restrictions imposed all over the world, Pakistan’s exports are likely to suffer further. Opening the economy in the middle of a virus pandemic is not likely to fulfill the government’s expectations. Evidence shows that economic activity in US cities that imposed tighter lockdowns bounced back quicker and stronger than those cities that had looser restrictions in place.