The covid-19 pandemic is not going to be over anytime soon, not after the failure to control the emergence of deadlier new variants in India and Brazil. The result in both countries has been horrific, causing infection rates to spike, with their doleful trail of an increase in the number of deaths. Even if it is conceded that Pakistan has so little contact with Brazil that its variant will not reach our shores without some intermediary, the same cannot be said about the Indian variant, because while there is no direct contact, there is considerable movement between Afghanistan and India, and then Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, there is absolutely no room for complacency. Germs find a way, and are no respecters of boundaries. These variants must be guarded against at a time when the country, along with the rest of the world, is already facing a third wave of the dread disease.
There seems to have been a public relaxation of precautions, with respect to both social distancing and mask-wearing, with the arrival of vaccines. While there have been inefficiencies in our rollout of the vaccine, it also seems clear that even the efficient rollout would not really have dented the coronavirus’s ability to wreak havoc. More pressing for the government is the need to get the citizenry to observe precautions. People have proven singularly thick-skinned, and are apparently ignoring all the appeals by government spokespersons, even the Prime Minister himself. However, the government has to do what it takes.
The government must prepare for an ordeal. The advent of Ramazan has not only brought with it an upsurge in congregations, but also the prospect of Eid shopping. Many will remember the incredible scenes of last year, when all caution was thrown to the winds, and the surge of cases afterwards. With cases already surging, another surge may be added by new variants, while Ramazan shopping frenzy will add another. This will only mean the collapse of the healthcare system, which is already stretched to breaking-point. The National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) has certainly got a lot on its plate, but it can only plan carefully to make sure that that plate does not break. To take one example, the recent Tehrik Labbaik protests created difficulties in delivering hospital supplies, including oxygen for covid-19 patients already fighting for their lives.