Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar on Sunday warned that if the carelessness of citizens in following Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) continues, coronavirus cases might climb up to 300,000 by the end of this month and 1.2million COVID-19 cases in Pakistan by the end of July.
Addressing media at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) in Islamabad, Umar stressed that there is a radical need to bring a change in attitude towards the virus on an individual and collective basis and that wearing masks is mandatory for slowing down the spread of the disease.
“Studies suggest that the pace of the virus’ spread could decrease by 50% by covering the mouth alone,” Umar stated, adding that social distancing is equally valuable for combating the disease.
However, he lamented that the people across the country were not following the SOPs which is the biggest challenge for the government.
Will more than two million Pakistanis be infected with virus till August, 2020?
As Asad Umar said that there can be 1.2million COVID-19 cases in Pakistan, according to research carried out by the Imperial College London and sponsored by the UK government, Pakistan is likely to face a worst-case scenario if the government does not interference to contain the deadly pandemic.
The Imperial College London’s algorithm creates the picture that Pakistan will reach the peak on August 10, 2020, on which day around 80,000 deaths will occur.
The News reported that the website says about Pakistan that if it imposes 32 percent lockdown from February 27 to July 11, i.e. for 135 days, then August 04 will be the peak day with 13,570,000 people will be affected. The worst day for Pakistan concerning corona deaths is expected at August 10 and deaths are projected to reach 78,515 after which deaths will start witnessing decrease.
The website also says January 2021 will witness an end to corona in Pakistan and on January 26, 2021, the total death toll in Pakistan from corona would be 2,132,617. It said if the lockdown was not imposed then 2,229,000 deaths will occur in Pakistan by January 26, 2021. If complete lockdown was imposed in Pakistan immediately, then the death toll may be restricted to about 10,200 by the end period.
Government lacks an effective communication mechanism, analysts
Analysts believe that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s decision not to impose a strict lockdown in Pakistan makes sense as a failing economy does afford to function under a curfew-like lockdown. However, the incumbent government has apparently failed to implement a strict policy of enforcing SOPs across the country.
Experts in Pakistan have warned against the premature easing of lockdown restrictions, fearing an exponential rise in infections. One healthcare worker said: “Everyone’s scared and exhausted. But we are fighting, we are pushing the limits. All we ask is that the government and people understand that they can help us help them by staying at home and providing us quality protective gear.”
Dr. Moeed Pirzada, a prominent Pakistani political commentator and columnist, believes that the government has failed to have an effective communication strategy to convey its message about the seriousness of the deadly pandemic. “The government needed to have a robust and effective communication mechanism to urge people to follow all the SOPs,” he said.
Asad Umar's warnings today point to the fact that PTI Govt's plans to restrict Corona Pandemic have failed. Reason: because Govt could not design an effective "Communication Strategy" https://t.co/jUBWkNEkia via @YouTube
— Moeed Pirzada (@MoeedNj) June 14, 2020
Dr. Pirzada also said that it was ‘unfortunate’ that the court ordered to let the people shop before Eid.
As it is feared that there may be 1.2million COVID-19 cases in Pakistan, it is worth noting that the apex court not only ordered the reopening of shopping malls but also noted that Pakistan “is not … seriously affected” by Covid-19 and that there is no pandemic in the country.
“This is a medical emergency, therefore, an opinion of medical experts be sought in a similar fashion as the court did in the controversy regarding Zakat distribution,” the Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) argued while emphasizing that none of them was qualified enough to grasp the real danger being posed by the outbreak of global magnitude.
However, the five-judge bench in its order stated that although the AGP and AG-Sindh had requested the apex court to constitute a team of doctors to seek their opinion, the court, for the time being, did not find this essential as the government functionaries were alive and could do whatever they could in accordance with the law.
Why are Pakistanis violating the SOPs?
Dr. Ahmed Usman, an Associate Professor of Sociology at the Institute of Social and Cultural Studies, University of the Punjab, Lahore, believes that: “Pakistani society is generally considered as a traditional society whose fabric is woven with the threads of norms, values, and cultures that are mostly shaped up by the complex theological underpinnings. Societal norms encourage social gatherings and overwhelming ways to express care, grief, and sorrow. The patterns of greetings are further formed as per religious frameworks that yet again emphasizes on kindness, generosity, and warmth ensured through reducing the physical gap between people. Religious rituals including Ibadaat at Mosques and religious congregations are considered compulsory in Islam. With this kind of widespread belief system, people believe that while they are in a state of ablution, no disease can harm them.”
Dr. Usman notes that “arguably, the belief system encourages them to violate the man-made rules of lockdown that they think are baseless and a conspiracy of enemies to weaken the connection between God and them. As lockdown restricts people from going to mosques and attending congregational prayers, it is considered an enemy’s tool to disconnect true Muslims from thy Lord.”
It is yet to be seen in the coming days whether the trends confirmed that there would be 1.2million COVID-19 cases in Pakistan or the situation turn from bad to worse.