COVID-19 cases have soared in number ever since the Pakistan government decided to ease lockdown measures. The World Health Organization wrote a letter to the government showing the numbers and urging the enforcement and strengthening of all security measures such as “quarantine, isolation, social distancing, and contact tracing”.
These same measures are being enforced by other countries globally and have proven to work in the case of New Zealand where restrictions are being lifted all the while maintaining what has come to be the new normal.
Pakistan, on the other hand, has a way to go before it meets some of the suggested safety requirements for easing restrictions. Following is a list of prerequisites given by the WHO Director-General:
- Disease transmission is under control.
- Health systems are able to “detect, test, isolate and treat every case and trace every contact”.
- Hot spot risks are minimized in vulnerable places, such as nursing homes.
- Schools, workplaces and other essential places have established preventive measures.
- The risk of importing new cases “can be managed”.
- Communities are fully educated, engaged and empowered to live under a new normal.
The letter noted the government’s initial cooperation, “Government intervention on April 12 detailing social distancing measures, including movement restrictions, closure of schools and businesses, international travel restrictions, and geographical area restrictions were instituted with the aim of limiting the spread of the disease.”
The letter goes on to elaborate how the rate of spread has risen since the “partial relaxation of the measures on the 1st May 2020, then followed by complete relaxation on the 22nd May”.
Dr. Yasmin Rashid, however, is of the opinion that “The current situation, whatever WHO says, right now we can also treat patients. The purpose of a lockdown is to prevent flooding of hospitals. We have a contingency plan […] right now we have the capacity [to treat patients] and will increase it in the next 10 to 15 days.”
She added that “The main thing that they have said is to ensure implementation of standard operating procedures (SOPs). This discussion has already taken place. In his last meeting, the Punjab chief minister stressed on taking action in areas where there are violations,” and acknowledged the assessment of the letter stating that the government will “consider it”.
Dr. Zafar Mirza, on the other hand, was adamant on the government’s control of the situation, stating that the “government has adopted a planned strategy to deal with the coronavirus” and that it “knows what is in the best interest of people.”
This response by the representatives of the government, needless to say, did not come without its fair share of backlash in the media. The letter and public reaction might make the government reconsider some of its measures in the days to come.