- The government’s triumphalism is perhaps the biggest threat
The government has been sounding triumphalist of late, as if it has defeated the coronavirus. Planning Minister Asad Umar was the latest member of the chorus, with his revelation that the number of patients needing ventilators was going down. However, World Health Organisation chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu sounded a less upbeat note when he pointed out that the number of cases worldwide had doubled in the last six weeks, though he did hold out hope for the affected by saying that it was still possible to handle the pandemic by taking aggressive measures.
The implication for Pakistan is that there is still room to rethink the attempts at reopening the country. Not only Uzbekistan has reversed its lockdown rollback, but Hong Kong is once again closing its schools after a fresh outbreak of cases. The government needs to take a long hard look at its decision to move over to a so-called smart lockdown policy, which appears to punish citizens for no fault of their own, and which ends up placing the entire city in lockdown. That effort appears driven by guesswork, for the brakes which have been placed on testing, mean that all figures available with public health officials are rendered dubious. Reducing testing means that the number of sick is hidden, but when people start suffering symptoms and just dying, the government may find itself having to explain a large number of deaths labeled non-covid because they had never been tested while alive.
The government has got yet another opportunity to make amends. But that it will not be able to do if it does not insist on trumpeting its achievements so far. The government should take to heart the WHO’’s warning about how the pandemic is not yet over. That is something the government will need to monitor, for it is only when the WHO says that the pandemic is no longer that, when it downgrades covid-19 to endemic in some countries, that there might be reason to celebrate. That will be, of course, if one is off the list of those countries where it is endemic, and it can be assumed that covid-19 will remain endemic all over the world, for some time to come.