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Daily Times Editorial 16 September 2020

Extreme caution needed


It ought to be a little disturbing for policy makers that Sindh’s Covid-19 tally has topped 300 for the first time in three weeks. Sure, neither the number nor the trend is as serious as in most of the world, but it is clearly an escalation by what has come to be known as Pakistan’s high standards in the fight against the coronavirus. To their credit, authorities were careful every time they mentioned their successes to remind everybody that the battle was by no means over and extreme caution was still needed to keep up the gains. And it was feared that Eidul Azha followed by the holy month of Muharram might encourage people to mingle a lot more than usual, which could lead to a situation where the virus stages a comeback; however limited in scale it might be.
It is too soon to say if any such fears are turning out to be true, of course, but Pakistan needs to be on the alert perhaps even more than countries that continue to suffer precisely because of all the ground we have successfully covered. Any complacency right now would undo most if not all of the gains very quickly. And now that we have reopened offices and also schools, failure springing from carelessness is the last thing that we need. It would not only put those people in trouble whose recklessness and irresponsibility causes the virus to spread, but also a very large number of other people who most likely do everything in their power to follow all the rules.
This is where the government needs to step in with authority. For all its steps and policies that ensured such good results against such a monumental problem, it did leave a little something to be desired as far as its information outreach was concerned. Sure, it put up a few warning advertisements on state television and radio, but clearly a lot more needs to be done. This message needs to be spread across the length and breadth of the country and also impress the lot far in the periphery that does not take such news very seriously. This is, in some ways, our most crucial stage even though we have come out so fine from this fight so far. Our medical facilities are very limited, and they were almost overrun when the situation got very grim, so extreme caution is needed at all times.



China leads the way


While US President Donald Trump, in his frustration still calls the coronavirus the China virus because it originated there, China is pressing ahead not only with regaining its pre-coronavirus status as the workshop of the world and has ramped up its exports, but it is also leading the race for developing a vaccine for Covid-19. It turns out that vaccines developed by China, of which at least four are in the final stage of clinical trial, might be ready for public use as early as November. Now we are likely to experience yet another phenomenon that will drive the White House to frustration.
So far international financial markets have defied all the gloom and doom that has descended upon the real global economy, which has already slipped into recession, because of two things. One, the willingness of central banks, particularly in bigger and richer countries, to keep coming up with relief and stimulus packages as long as needed. And two, the prospect of developing a vaccine, which is why whenever even fake news about a possible cure for the virus hits the news waves financial markets make for the sky as if just powered by extremely positive financial results, which is of course not the case.
Of late, because of the deadlock between the Republicans and Democrats in Congress, it seemed that the world’s biggest economy would not be able to come out with a new package in time to keep financial markets from running out of steam. And indeed some markets had been turning since at least the last half of last week. But now that China has given hope of another vaccine, it could well be that investors of the world, whose only loyalty lies with successful investments, might pour yet more money into markets and keep them rising. How that would frustrate the Trump White House is not difficult to guess at all. It seems all Beijing has to do to win this emerging cold war with Washington is keep doing the right thing and letting the other party make all the mistakes.
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