The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the government’s nerve centre for COVID-19 response, has set off alarm bells with the onset of a fifth wave of the pandemic. On Wednesday, Pakistan reported nearly 900 cases in the past 24 hours for the first time since October 2021. The NCOC chief and Planning Minister Asad Umar said on the same day that the coronavirus positivity rate in the country had gone up from 0.7 per cent to 1.8 per cent in a span of just two weeks in the wake of the new Omicron variant. He informed that Karachi recorded a whopping 940 per cent increase in corona infections with most being cases of the new ‘more contagious’ variant.
The opportunities the world had imagined 2022 would bring with easing of Coronavirus restrictions and travel bans, along with a hoped end to the pandemic, are now being shattered as countries across the globe are struggling to mitigate the spread of the virus. The US reported 400 percent increase in infections, the UK registered 134 percent and South Africa – where Omicron was first discovered – recorded a worrying 3,500 percent increase. These figures have once again led countries to impose travel restrictions. Pakistan too issued new guidelines for travel, such as, mandatory COVID-19 vaccination and possession of proof of Covid-19 inoculation. On the other hand, above 30 in the country have also been allowed to get booster shots to contain the spread. Not enough emphasis can be laid on the fact that vaccination is key in curtailing the spread of the virus.
However, it is also important for the government and relevant authorities to ensure that people are following the COVID-related SOPs – wearing face masks and practicing social distancing. These have unfortunately been forgotten not just by the general populace, but our leaders too. It is then important to lead by example. Political leaders as well as federal ministers should follow the SOPs when holding pressers on regular basis. Meanwhile, the previous campaign of imposing fines on people found flouting the SOPs should be brought back. Far too many people have been traveling and going in huge crowds without even donning a mask. It must be reiterated that the pace of growth of the fifth is more rapid, posing a threat to the achievements we had gained so far in managing the virus. We must thus act now.