As global coronavirus infections reach 100,000 according to the latest World Health Organization statistics, Pakistan’s first patient of COVID-19 has been discharged from a hospital in Karachi after making a full recovery, according to a spokesperson for the Sindh health department. Furthermore, infection numbers are in the low double digits and not a single death has been reported – so far it seems that the government has kept a lid on the spreading contagion.

But the state must not fall in a false sense of accomplishment and let complacency set in. coronavirus may not be actively spreading yet, but we should look at nation’s where it has and recognize how catastrophic a nationwide spread would be. The developed world with its massive reserve of emergency funds and sophisticated healthcare systems is struggling to control the virus and taking a massive beating to their economies in the process. Pakistan – and the larger South Asia in general – cannot risk it spreading to its densely packed cities and villages.

Therefore, the state must stay vigilant, should not get drawn into minimizing the threat in an attempt to keep an appearance of control, and take all necessary pro-active decisions. Prevention is still the only viable strategy.

Taking cues from other nations Pakistani state officials should cut back on all non-necessary congregations and functions, while discouraging the people from doing the same. However, care should be taken to protect economic drivers – such as markets and factories – from unnecessary closures. This is a thin line to walk; Pakistan’s economy can suffer a maximum of 1.57 per cent gross domestic product (GDP) losses in case of a coronavirus outbreak in the country, according to an assessment by the Asian Development Bank.

In our current economic environment, we cannot risk an outbreak, nor risk a slowdown. The government must stay highly vigilant.