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Reaping a bitter harvest

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DESPERATE appeals by doctors were ignored. Warnings from the Pakistan Medical Association were brushed aside. The advice of public health officials was disregarded. Voices of anxious citizens were dismissed.

The government went ahead anyway and made the fateful decision to ease the lockdown on May 9 — a lockdown that had not been rigorously enforced but had still managed to ensure some social distancing. Once restrictions were relaxed, marketplaces reopened, and most economic activity resumed, people tended to assume that Covid-19 was not such a dire threat after all. What followed was entirely predictable. Medical experts had repeatedly warned that easing the lockdown too hastily and sweepingly when the virus was multiplying and the virus curve was far from flattening would create an alarming situation. This is exactly what happened.

The country reaped a bitter harvest from the government’s May decision. Covid-19 cases skyrocketed by over 500 per cent in the next five weeks. From 27,474 cases on May 9, they soared to 154, 760 by June 17. They now continue to surge daily by record numbers. Fatalities too rose over five-fold in about the same period, from 618 to over 3,380.

Some increase in cases was to be expected. But initial government ambivalence, late intervention after the outbreak, and early easing of the lockdown contributed to a much higher rate of increase.

The government’s self-righteous attitude precludes any policy review or a course correction.

As this disturbing situation emerged, federal minister Asad Umar, who chairs the National Command........

© Dawn

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