Pakistan’s partial easing of the lockdown, which included lifting restrictions on certain businesses, while risky, made financial sense. This was a cost-benefit calculation of the risks of the pandemic spread compared to the economic costs it would bear, especially to daily wage workers. However, Prime Minister Imran Khan’s recent announcement of the reopening of several other businesses, which include the tourism industry, is an underestimation of the enormous cost to the healthcare infrastructure that this move would bring. The financial compensation of re-opening of the tourism industry does not balance out the disastrous health consequences that could occur due to the inherent nature of tourism.

Firstly, SOPs would be nearly impossible to follow in this case. We have already observed how poorly SOPs have been adhered to in urban centres, even with the maximum security and police authorities on duty. For far-flung areas, which do not have the executive facilities that centres like Lahore or Karachi do, it would be more difficult to enforce any kind of guidelines, no matter how strict or authoritative. It is difficult to estimate how tourism, an industry which relies on groups of people travelling, will enforce social distancing guidelines, when markets in the big cities have been unable to.

Secondly, the government has not taken into account the enormous health risk that this poses to the locals residing in the tourist areas. Tourist hotspots like Hunza do not have access to the same supply of healthcare facilities that larger urban cities do. They cannot afford to be tested to the “herd immunity” theory since further spread of the coronavirus risks collapsing the entire healthcare infrastructure in place.

All of these factors culminate into a recipe for disaster. It is hoped that the government takes its next steps taking in consideration the extreme risks of any further easing of the lockdown.