Afifa Tahir Azim
In our quest for ‘normality’, are we willing to take a risk and participate in a social experiment, or would we rather accept the idea of the ‘new normal’ and learn to live with SOPs for the rest of our lives? Coronavirus has returned with a vengeance in the form of 3rd wave. The speed with which public gatherings are taking place in the state shows the lack of rigorousness. Last year, Prime Minister Imran Khan addressed the nation defending his decision of lifting lockdown and moving towards the reopening of the country on economic grounds. “This virus will spread more. I have to say it with regret that there will be more deaths. But Pakistan could not afford to remain shut any longer and people will have to learn to live with the virus… we cannot feed the poor indefinitely”. After the lifting of lockdowns last September, the country saw rampant disregard for social distancing guidelines and advisories. Images and videos circulated of mosques packed shoulder to shoulder with worshippers and markets crammed with shoppers. People think that the pandemic is over which is not true. The coronavirus is still very much an imminent risk in Pakistan and the rise of the 3rd wave is clearly due to the desisting of the following of SOPs. According to JHU CSSE Covid 19 Data, in last 24 hours in Azad Jammu and Kashmir, 103 people tested positive, 61 recovered and 6 died due to SARS-CoV-2-PCR_a figure which can get doubled in no time given the high multiplication rate of the virus. Despite this, public gatherings continue to occur at full strength, with no care for distancing and mask wearing. WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has warned, “No country can just pretend the pandemic is over”. He said, “The reality is this virus spreads easily. Opening up without control is a recipe for disaster”. This warning should be taken very seriously by the state government, which must keep a vigilant eye on the Covid-19 graph- especially in light of schools, colleges, universities reopening. Markets, restaurants, marriage halls and picnic spots must be strictly observed. With the continuation of economic activity, distance and SOPs must be followed by small and large businesses, especially where more than a handful of people are expected to congregate. Authorities must be alert about tracking and imposing the rules. Everyone should proclaim that carelessness can push the country back to the unpleasant and miserable days where a rapid spread forced shutdowns. According to a notice issued by Home Department AJ&K on March 14, 2021, following relaxation in the lock down imposed on 30-12-2020, government has introduced some of the policies which must be vigilantly observed. • Masks should be used in all public and private spaces, a person without mask would not be allowed to enter any transport office or business center. • Antigen Testing to be ensured where the Micro Smart Lockdown has imposed and where there is an increased ratio of pandemic is observed. • Schools and other educational institutions to be sealed if the any Covid cases are observed. Moreover, extracurricular activities to be postponed till the pandemic is over. • Those who are tested positive for Covid-19 should enforce strict quarantine to control the spread of the havoc of this highly communicable disease. Third wave of Coronavirus has occurred in the world because of the failure of authorities to interact properly with public and the violation of SOPs. To reduce the destructive impact that Covid-19 and incidental lockdowns can have on the healthcare infrastructure and economy, we have to be more careful and wakesome. We cannot put our country into an all-out disaster again. As a nation we have to stand up and support our government in fighting against this pandemic so that our country can once again become a safe and prosperous place to live in.