On a rampage
The Covid-19 coronavirus is now proliferating in Pakistan at a frightening rate. On May 22, the number of confirmed Covid cases in the country totalled 50,694. This figure nearly doubled to 98,943 on June 7 — i.e. an addition of nearly 50,000 cases in a period of 16 days. The tally swelled by another 50,000 cases or so, but in half the number of days (eight), standing at 146,254 as of June 15 (yesterday). This shows a little less than 200% increase in 24 days in the rate at which the deadly virus is mushrooming in Pakistan, taking it to the sixth rank among countries with highest number of new cases.
No wonder Asad Umar — the Chairman of the National Command and Operation Centre that is supervising the affairs related to Covid-19 — sees the number of cases of the infection exceeding one million by the end of next month. During a press conference on Sunday, Umar, who is also the Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms, claimed that wearing masks is a verified way of curbing the spread of Covid-19 by up to 50%, alongside warning the public that the government would start taking administrative action against those not wearing masks or maintaining social distancing.
Umar’s estimate looks miniscule when compared with Imperial College London’s predictions about the spread of the virus in Pakistan in case lockdowns are not imposed to contain it. However, since Pakistan’s economic situation does not allow a full-fledged lockdown — which has otherwise proven to be an effective way of breaking the transmission chain of the virus, thus containing its spread — the country is mainly relying on the general public as well as the business class to exercise social distancing and adhere to the SOPs to keep the lethal virus at bay and help the infection curve to start plateauing.
Unfortunately, people are not as responsive as the situation warrants. What is even more worrisome is the fact that a big percentage of people are not even ready to accept the presence of a deadly pandemic in their midst. While the government has adopted a selective lockdown strategy to seal areas with serious virus infestation, it must also go tough on violation of SOPs.
Sacrificial animal markets
Perhaps, never before was uncertainty so intense as it is now in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. One is sure of only one thing and it is about Covid-19, though the curve is yet to flatten in Pakistan. Confusion surrounds the setting up of markets of sacrificial animals for Eidul Azha. The festival is only a month and a half away and uncertainty prevails whether the sacrificial cattle markets will be established in Karachi and other parts of Sindh. Officials are adding to the confusion by issuing conflicting statements. They are not much to blame because they themselves are unsure whether the pandemic could subside or intensify by the time of the festival. In order to remove the confusion, they should announce that things depended on the intensity of the coronavirus pandemic, instead of keep people and cattle traders bussing.
The local government secretary says the official notification banning cattle markets in Sindh’s capital applies only to regular markets. Earlier on June 2, a notification issued by the home department has said all cattle markets in Karachi would stay closed ahead of Eidul Azha. The secretary says the ambiguity in the language of this notification has led many to believe that even the markets for sacrificial animals would not be set up this year.
A spokesman for the Eidul Azha market(s) says, “Last week a notification announced that sacrificial animal market(s) would be allowed to be set up if SOPs were properly adhered to. Now another notification says all cattle markets have been canceled.” He said that at sacrificial animal markets, around 600,000 cattle were sold. However, in the absence of cattle markets, prices of animals would shoot up making them go beyond the reach of many. He said that they planned to open the cattle markets for the public from June 21.
The prevailing confusion about cattle markets will likely affect both traders and intending buyers.