Did smart lockdown prove effective to combat COVID-19 in Pakistan?

Prime Minister Imran Khan openly opposed the imposition of complete lockdown on economic grounds. Did his smart lockdown policy work? Evidence on the ground suggests that the country witnessed 28 percent reduction in critical Covid-19 cases due to smart lockdown as well as compliance with standard operating procedures (SOPs). Read the complete story here.

combat COVID-19 in Pakistan

The country has witnessed 28 percent reduction in critical Covid-19 cases due to smart lockdown as well as compliance with standard operating procedures (SOPs), said the National Command and Control Centre (NCOC) on Sunday. The NCOC explained how the smart lockdown proved to be effective combat COVID-19 in Pakistan.

The NCOC said that the government’s decision to impose smart lockdown in areas reporting a spike in cases has produced the desired results as the number of cases has seen a steady decline.

The NCOC said that a significant reduction in the number of positive cases has emerged as the country crossed the 100-day mark in its fight against coronavirus. “Smart lockdowns, a stronger enforcement effort, compliance of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and the nationwide change in the behaviour can be credited for the current gains in the fight against Covid-19,” it added.

The NCOC added that as countries around the world juggle with strategies to flatten the Covid-19 curve, Pakistan’s strategy won an unexpected endorsement from the United Nations Secretary-General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres.

Guterres, in his Twitter post, had acknowledged that there was no choice between health or jobs in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. “They are interlinked. We will either win on all fronts or fail on all fronts,” said the UNSG.

Earlier this week World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom had lauded the Pakistani government’s response against the coronavirus pandemic and “recognized the positive trend of virus curtailment” in the country.

In relation to the Premier’s concern regarding travel restrictions, the global health watchdog assured the country’s top representative that it is creating SOPs to remove travel restrictions in the future.

Combat COVID-19 in Pakistan: Reeducation in active cases

The NCOC also said that the number of coronavirus cases has started receding in the country as 156,700 patients have so far recovered from Covid-19, bringing the total number of active cases in Pakistan to 86,975.

A total of 2,521 new cases surfaced during the last 24 hours taking the tally to 248,872, said NCOC, adding that the death toll from the virus has reached 5,197 with 74 more deaths reported over the last 24 hours.

Read More: Pakistan records 137 Coronavirus deaths: Will ‘smart lockdown’ work?

According to the NCOC, the total reported cases include 86,556 in Punjab, 103,836 in Sindh, 30,078 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), 11,157 in Balochistan, 14,023 in Islamabad, 1,658 in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) and 1,564 in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). A total of 24,211 coronavirus tests were carried out during this period, it added.

WHO recognizes Pakistan’s effort to contain COVID-19

Initially, the World Health Organization (WHO) has termed Pakistan’s measures against COVID-19 outbreak as “timely” and the “best national response”. The Country Head of the WHO Dr. Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala, while talking to media in Karachi during his visit to various hospitals and testing labs, said: “At a time when other countries were reporting cases, Pakistan was keeping the virus at bay, which is something quite praiseworthy.”

Later on, the WHO urged the Punjab government to enforce a strict two-week lockdown in the province to contain the spread of coronavirus. In a letter to the provincial government, the WHO strongly recommended that the government should adopt the “two weeks off and two weeks on” strategy as it offers the smallest curve. It also recommended strengthening of all public health measures such as quarantine, isolation, physical distancing and contact tracing.

Read More: After successfully containing COVID-19, Pakistan goes for smart lockdown

While talking about Coronavirus in Pakistan Kristalina Georgieva, Managing Director-International Monetary Fund (IMF), has praised the government for its “swift move to offer relief response to the people”.

Prime Minister Imran Khan initially opposed to enforcing a curfew-like lockdown in Pakistan. He offered several economic reasons behind his decision. However, provincial governments, experts, and media urged the prime minister to ensure the lose lockdown in order to ensure physical distancing so that the spread of the virus can be stopped.

The Prime Minister then announced Corona Relief Tiger Force and Corona Relief Fund along with a multi-billion package involving relief for labor and underprivileged class, the business community and industries and farmers.

Read More: A Coronavirus guide to fixing Pakistan’s economy

However, PML-N President Shehbaz Sharif sheepishly termed Prime Minister Imran Khan ‘incompetent’.  He also alleged that the government is using the “Corona Relief Fund” to advance its political agenda, therefore, a parliamentary monitoring committee must be established for oversight of the funds to ensure their justified usage. The PML-N’s president accused Prime Minister Khan of ‘utter failure’ and held him responsible for the spread of coronavirus in the country. He said that a parliamentary committee is necessary to probe the details of the import of items being procured from abroad.

Analysts believe that the world is praising PM Khan’s effective policy to combat COVID-19 in Pakistan but some segments at home are unable to comprehend the context in which the premier is making such policies. It is believed that Pakistan does not afford a curfew-like lockdown at any point and under any circumstances.

As the WHO recognizes Pakistan’s effort to contain COVID-19, the opposition needs to review its policy of condemnation. The PTI’s government appears to be working in the right direction to combat the deadly virus.

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