In early June, the World Health Organization sent a letter to all the provinces of Pakistan announcing that the country was among the ten countries in the world with the highest number of cases of COVID-19 per day. After some debate, Pakistan decided to impose a “smart confinement”, tracking and testing strategy in parts of the country that are considered a breeding ground for the coronavirus.
Currently, there are 173,590 confirmed cases in Pakistan, and 3,590 deaths from the virus. The Government has asked citizens to take preventive measures, to avoid going out, to wear face masks and wash their hands because the health system will not be able to handle the burden of new cases.
As COVID-19 cases jumped to 165,062 after 4,944 new infections were detected in Pakistan over the past 24 hours while 136 more people succumbed to the deadly disease, is the smart lockdown proving to be effective? pic.twitter.com/E0zJHwW77q
– Global Village Space (@GVS_News) June 21, 2020
With the increase in COVID-19 cases to 165,062, after 4,944 new infections were detected in Pakistan in the last 24 hours and 136 more people succumbed to the disease, has smart confinement proven to be effective?
Loosening of restrictions generates an increase in cases
In mid-March, the Pakistani government began to implement its first containment measures. Prime Minister Imran Khan said from the start that Pakistan could not face full confinement for fear that 25% of people living below the line would starve. The government banned public gatherings, closed restaurants and other daily activities, and closed educational institutions until July 15. Stores selling everyday items, vegetable and fruit stores, and pharmacies remained open.
On May 10, just two weeks before Eid, a post-Ramadan Islamic celebration, the government relaxed confinement after the business sector began to pressure the government. The Supreme Court of Pakistan also took notice on its own (when a judge hears an incident of public interest on its own initiative and not at the request of a party) and issued a directive calling on the Government to reopen shopping centers throughout the country.
Pakistan reports 520 new cases and 17 new deaths in the past 24 hours. We are not ready to ease the lockdown. The state, such that it is, is privileging some half-baked idea of economic necessity over the lives of many.
– Kamini Masood (@hastobuud) April 16, 2020
Pakistan reports 520 new cases and 17 new deaths in the last 24 hours. We are not ready to make confinement more flexible. The State, as it is, is privileging a poorly conceived idea of economic necessity over the lives of many.
The Pakistan Medical Association opined that the Government should have taken the virus seriously, and that the Supreme Court should have reconsidered its opinion. Doctors feared that the country would not have the necessary infrastructure to care for patients if the government chose the herd's immunity.
When confinement was relaxed, the public was asked to “become responsible and intelligent citizens”; however, people flooded thousands of markets to make Eid purchases and violated all operating procedures. In an interview with people in a market they said they refused to believe that the coronavirus exists.
🚨🚨🚨🚨#Peshawar Sadar Bazar today
– Jalal Qazi (@JalalQazi) May 11, 2020
EsPeshawar, Sadar bazaar today.
Note: Peshawar is the city with the most deaths from COVID-19 Pakistan, daily, more than 80 positive cases and after the relaxation of confinement, this is the situation.
After a month of reopening, Pakistan had more than 100,000 cases, which has put strong pressure on the health system.
You can predict peak only when you have taken the necessary steps (lockdown, aggressive testing, and contact tracing etc.)
Pakistan has slackened on these steps. hence the peak projection keeps shifting from one month to the other. /2https://t.co/2T5aCLw3aH
– Awais Saleem (@ awaissaleem77) June 21, 2020
These simulations show how to flatten the growth curve of the coronavirus.
The slow increase in cases of coronavirus transmission has become a constant current. With these simple simulations, we can see how to slow down.
Increase can be predicted only when necessary measures have been taken (confinement, aggressive testing and contact tracing, etc.).
Pakistan has decreased these measures. Therefore, the increase projection continues to change from month to month.
As anticipated, cases began to increase and the letter from the World Health Organization to the provinces stated that Pakistan was not doing enough tests and that they should be increased at all costs. In this regard, Bilawal Bhutto, president of the Pakistani People's Party tweeted:
WHO letter to Sindh government raises valid concerns & suggestions. Will be discussed by Sindh govt before being taken up at national level. We've long called for national policy to be linked to facts & our own capacity. Unfortunately so far this hasn’t been a national approach.
– BilawalBhuttoZardari (@BBhuttoZardari) June 9, 2020
The WHO letter to the Sindh regime raises valid concerns and suggestions. They will be analyzed by the Sindh regime before being implemented at the national level. We have long called for a national policy that relates to facts and our own ability. Unfortunately, this has so far not been the national focus.
Asad Umar, Pakistan's Minister of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, warned at a press conference that confirmed cases of COVID-19 could double in late June and reach a million or 1.2 million by the end of July if the public does not take safety measures.
Smart confinement arrives
On June 18, the Government of Pakistan decided to implement 'selective' or 'smart' containment for the virus, which was received with confusion and rejection. Smart confinement involves tracking, tracking, testing, and arranging quarantine mechanisms with the help of the national security apparatus to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The objective is to confine the areas that have a high number of infected populations and at the same time to relax restrictions on economic activities under strict protocols. But social media users are debating this measure as they believe that Pakistan should have total confinement.
“Hafta itwar band baqi din khuly”
Pakistan aa k crown b pagal ho gya hai;)
– Aleezy_khan🔥 (@ victorious_55) June 21, 2020
“Markets closed Saturdays and Sundays, open the other days”
After arriving in Pakistan, the coronavirus went crazy. 😉
Some provinces, such as Sindh, face difficulties in implementing smart confinement effectively due to lack of resources, manpower, and public misunderstanding.
After the WHO letter, all provinces re-imposed confinement in areas that are centers of contagion of the coronavirus. The government follows a strategy of tracking, testing and quarantine, following strict protocols defined by the WHO, and is also using technology, the police force and a team of volunteers to help identify restrictions.