Smart Lockdown

June 23, 2020

The evidence coming out from the smart lockdown in specific sectors of Islamabad is proof that this strategy, if implemented properly, can be quite effective in curbing the spread of coronavirus cases in high incidence areas. The need to enforce such measures will continue to arise because despite
repeated pleas, many people continue to violate SOPs created by the government. The situation in Punjab remains precarious because of widespread violations as well. The kind of smart lockdown observed in Islamabad has not been seen in Lahore and other major urban centres in Punjab. Though the Punjab government announced that it will be sealing specific areas, said areas remained relatively open with people easily able to navigate through the blockades. Furthermore, there is a considerable body of opinion that suggests smart lockdowns alone will not prove adequate towards achieving total eradication of COVID-19 from the country. They put forward New Zealand as the role model for a highly effective approach. But the fact is that Pakistan and New Zealand are very different countries. Pakistan has a huge population, far higher population density and fewer governmental and medical resources available to deal with the pandemic. The country’s economic realities, which have
also guided the government’s opposition to a complete lockdown, are also very different from New Zealand or the US.
There is also the issue of awareness and lack of education, which makes the job of government functionaries even more challenging as their efforts are routinely undermined by the very people they are trying to protect. It certainly has not helped that several political leaders of the ruling party have also engaged in irresponsible messaging in order to downplay the crisis at hand. If the smart lockdown strategy is to yield results like those observed in certain sectors of Islamabad, the implementation will
need to be thorough and strict. Otherwise, transmissions will continue unabated. Pretty soon the government will have to answer for this policy as well. And from the looks of things so far it is not looking too good for it. The idea was to keep the virus under check and open the economy at
the same time. And, even though PTI’s own provincial government in Punjab was in favour of taking an economic hit for the time being but still shutting at least Lahore down to get things under a little bit of control, it was the prime minister himself that threw that idea out of the window. Will the people still be held responsible if this also turns out to be a bad idea?

Pretty soon the government will have to answer for this policy as well. And from the looks of things so far it is not looking too good for it. The idea was to keep the virus under check and open the economy at the same time.

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