THE picture that is emerging from Covid-19 wards at hospitals in Islamabad, Punjab and KP is deeply distressing. Oxygen beds are filling up fast and some coronavirus patients are being admitted to emergency wards. In the capital, a major hospital is facing serious staff shortage as scores of healthcare workers have tested positive and are either isolating at home or are in quarantine centres.
The District Health Office too has sounded the alarm about an increase in Covid-19 hospital admissions and asked both private and state-run-hospitals to build capacity for critical patients. The number of single-day positive cases reported in the capital on Monday is the highest it has ever been since the pandemic began. The NCOC has revealed that 26 cities have a positivity rate higher than 8pc — a reality that is reflected in increased hospitalisations and ventilator use in both Punjab and the capital. On Tuesday, the centre reported the grim figure of 100 Covid-19 deaths in 24 hours.
It is a pity that Pakistan has been plunged into this deadly wave at a point when we know more about the virus and prevention than we did a year ago. Daily new cases are consistently high because for months now, both ordinary people and public office holders have shown carelessness.
Ignoring SOPs such as wearing masks and social distancing, both citizens and officials have defied global protocols and even congregated at rallies and mass weddings. In the same period, though many countries were in lockdown, we relished the ‘magical’ immunity believed to be associated with the lower reported death and case rate here.
The result is before us. This week, the government has announced a ban on weddings starting April 5, though why it not doing so at once is confusing. One also hopes that there is no resistance to curbs on large gatherings at mosques and taraweeh prayers during Ramazan, otherwise the threat of infection will only increase.
The government must appeal to all sections of the public and create a sense of urgency about Covid-19 SOPs. It must also be unequivocal in its communication and actions to convince people that the the virus is a serious public health crisis and will further weaken an already overstretched healthcare sector.
As cases cast a pall of doom, all hope is pinned on the availability of a vaccine. Here, the queue-jumping and out-of-turn procurement of the vaccine by influential politicians is a reprehensible manifestation of privilege that is often witnessed during times of crisis.
The government must ensure that it procures vaccines and makes them available for at-risk members of the population fast. The provinces too, must do their part to engage global manufacturers with a view to supplying the vaccine. Without a widely accessible and efficiently rolled-out vaccine programme, the authorities are robbing people of their right to both safety and freedom.