Sigh of relief?
There can be no better news for the country, or any other country for that matter, than confirmation that there is some sort of improvement in the fight against the coronavirus. For Pakistan it is too much to expect, right now, that the number of cases will start receding anytime soon. But Planning Minister Asad Umar’s revelation that the number of expected cases by month-end might not be as bad as previously thought gives hope because it implies that the graph might at least not rise as steeply in the near future as it is now. Considering how sharply the infection has been spreading across the country since Eid, and how the healthcare system was fast coming under more pressure than it could be expected to bear, this news provides just the sigh of relief that the nation needs.
Yet the government must realise that it needs to be absolutely sure about the trend before making any bold claims. While it is appreciated that the government believes its policies are beginning to improve things, it is important to approach the situation from all possible angles before declaring even the slightest chance of victory. The reason is that it is quite obvious that the people only need the slightest excuse to abandon all notions of social distancing, which can very well undo any good work that really has been done. The government must, therefore, make sure there is nothing else that is affecting its data; like the number of tests taking place across the country. There have been news reports indicating that a lot of people are no longer bothering to get tested even when they show clear signs of the virus. That’s because large crowds at testing centres have made people cautious; and the fact that the tests are too expensive for much of the population to afford.
There’s also been the somewhat disturbing trend, at least in Lahore, of lab workers not being allowed to visit certain locations to test people in their homes. That way lot of people who show symptoms, and do want to get tested, are unable to do so when the call for in-home service. The government must make sure that it factors in all such facts before confirming whether or not the graph is rising any slower now. The importance of both transparency and making sure all information flows to the people cannot be stressed enough. The people must know exactly what is happening, so they can also know just what is required of them.
Are markets turning?