Watching the havoc wrought by the coronavirus pandemic in China, Iran, the US, Europe and South-East Asia, Pakistan’s policy circles were fearing a catastrophe at home. Close proximity to China and Iran, relatively weaker health infrastructure and limited resources available to authorities – these are some of the key factors that compelled the government to anticipate a far worse situation than we actually find ourselves in.

Surprisingly, Pakistan is faring better than expected, as it has been successful in preventing widespread transmission despite poor odds. Quick decision-making and thorough implementation in the imposition of a countrywide lockdown has certainly produced a relatively positive outcome. But this was not achieved without a great cost. Economic realities suggest that an indefinite lockdown is untenable. Therefore, the case for relaxing restrictions, as argued and implemented by the government, is not without merit.

Much wealthier countries with far more COVID-19 cases are now deliberating on options available to them for resumption of economic activity. With a substantial number among its population living around the poverty line, Pakistan cannot afford to remain closed for business indefinitely and starve its people in the process. To prevent an economic catastrophe, it is important to gradually and carefully ease the lockdown.

The coronavirus pandemic has forever changed the world as we knew it. The true nature and extent of its many implications will only become clear with time. What we do know is that this is our new reality; the sooner we learn to live with it, the better. The contact between Prime Minister Imran Khan and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani for resumption of trade is a step in the right direction. Pakistan cannot remain isolated as countries across the world begin to resume international trade. For this to work, it is crucial that we all exercise caution and demonstrate responsibility in following the SOPs and guidelines provided by the government. By finding a new balance and working together, we can move forward and give ourselves a fighting chance.