The second wave of the Coronavirus Disease (Covid-19), rightly termed as the mother of all crises, has started hitting us hard again. That this is true is anybody’s guess. It was not a while ago when the coronavirus outbreak, which is said to have originated in Wuhan, China in November 2019, took less than three months to reach Pakistan in February 2020. However, despite repeated WHO warnings of looming coronavirus threats, the Pakistan government, led by Prime Minister Imran Khan, caught itself almost off-guard, having done no prior homework and with no premeditated contingency plans at its disposal to stem the virus spread. What were later executed in the name of Covid-19 curtailment measures were predominantly impulsive improvisations, which ended up doing nothing more than adding such colourful expressions to common parlance as complete lockdown, smart lockdown, micro-smart lockdown, herd immunity, standard operating procedures (SOPs), etc. In the midst of all this trial and error-based crisis management, the scorching summer brought some relief to the Covid-ridden climate, hence bringing down the curve across the country in the first phase of the pandemic. Now at the end of 2020, the second wave of the Covid-19 outbreak has occurred at the peak of winter. It resonates well with incessant warnings of health practitioners and whistleblowers, who had many a times raised their concerns about the alarming spike in cases, considering the prevailing conditions in the winter are quite favourable to viral stability and transmission, compared to the summers.
Yet again, the overall scenario in Pakistan at present is not very different to that of the gloomy situation of the recent past when the first coronavirus case emerged in the country. This only accentuates the poor governance standards that characterize the current regime. Other than gross public negligence of anti-coronavirus measures, the state machinery, along with those in the opposition, who consider themselves equally worthy of ruling the country, seem to have decided to keep pursuing their political agenda by sacrificing the masses at the altar of the deadly pandemic. There is no let up in the huge political rallies, public gatherings and mass protests. There is not much to be expected from the super-spreader political events other than an alarming spike in the pandemic, consquent hospitalizations and more deaths. Driving the final nail in the coffin of the public, the so-called ‘herd immunity’ strategy clearly exempts the children of the greater god, since they don’t belong to the herd, and thus need to be protected, come hell or high water! Comprising parliamentarians, top bureaucrats, leading business people and the rest of the upper crust, for instance, those selected people who were invited recently to the engagement ceremony of Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, the daughter of the Pakistan Peoples Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, were asked to show up with a mandatory negative coronavirus test. Marking a clear difference between the haves and have-nots, the Bakhtawar episode is a stark reminder of the lower, herd-like status the people have had in the minds of their holier-than-thou political custodians as well as public representatives.
A global pandemic that was once seen as a natural calamity is now turning into a man-made disaster. Though some encouraging news about the development of vaccines is emerging from some parts of the world, there is still a long way to go to launch a vaccine that would make people immune against the coronavirus at a global scale.
As far as Pakistan is concerned, and other countries like it, at this critical time of life-or-death, a deep sense of collective responsibility must be displayed by everyone – herd or no herd. As respiratory illnesses spike in the smog-ridden winter climate, even the most obtuse person can see a rise in the rate of Covid-19 hospitalizations and resulting fatalities. Therefore, in place of point scoring and well beyond closing of educational institutions, shopping areas, restaurants, etc, more drastic but result-oriented measures are required, particularly on the part of the government, to ensure public health and safety.