The coronavirus positivity rate, after falling for the past few weeks is yet again ticking upwards in tandem with hospitalization rates. As only a fraction of the population has been immunized so far, the government has taken a welcome decision to commit $1.1 billion for vaccines to cover the eligible population that from today will also include those aged 18. As the commitment of the funds is fairly late, Pakistan will have to stand in long queues formed because of demand for the vaccines outstripping their supply.
The government had announced certain relaxations which although badly needed from an economic standpoint have perhaps contributed to the early arrival of an inevitable fourth wave. To discourage those still unwilling to get a shot, vaccination has been made compulsory for every government or private sector employee. From next month non-vaccinated persons will not be allowed to board domestic flights.
The administration cannot afford to lower its guard. There is unfortunately a tendency in some of the PTI leaders to overplay their government’s success. Any display of triumphalism or complacency could be extremely harmful on account of new and more dangerous corona variants appearing in various countries. Statements such as “world recognizes the struggle waged by Pakistan against COVID-19” remark reminds one of similar accolades that brought tragedy to India. By mid-February, India was counting an average of 11,000 cases a day. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths from the disease had slid to below 100. Modi was called a “vaccine guru” and an overconfident India announced key elections in five states. In less than a month, things began to unravel. India was in the grips of a devastating second wave of the virus and cities were facing fresh lockdowns.
Pakistan is still far away from reaching herd immunity and its vaccination rate remains slow. It has yet to enable its civilian institutions like police to enforce covid-19 SOPS instead of calling in the Army. Pakistan would do better to err on the side of caution. So long as there is no herd immunity through all-out vaccination, things can go out of hand because of overconfidence or carelessness.