As recognised by the government, Pakistan is beginning to enter the exponential growth phase of the coronavirus pandemic. The upcoming week may be crucial in determining the trajectory of cases. The rising numbers suggest that the current level of response will not suffice. The fault lies both with the government as well as the people.

It is extremely unfortunate that many people remain unable to appreciate the gravity of the situation. They are still failing to observe quarantine discipline despite clear instructions by the authorities. Traffic is gradually returning to major urban centres across the country even though the lockdown has not been officially lifted. There are also misconceptions abound that the change in weather will somehow kill the virus. Or that as long as someone is not showing symptoms, they are safe to be around. All this is bound to undermine and undo all the effort that has gone into containing the virus.

Provincial governments need to strictly enforce the lockdown and ensure that they do not send any mixed signals. Despite a good start, the authorities have been found wanting in their ability to implement restrictions on movement. The rise in cases suggests that this is not the time to offer relaxations but ramp up efforts for stricter measures. Just a few days of callousness can make things spiral out of control. As observed from the situation in China, Italy, Spain, Germany, France and other countries, once a certain threshold is crossed, it becomes nearly impossible to contain the virus, leading to thousands in casualties.

There is also talk of possibly lifting the lockdown in the next few days owing to the dire economic situation. This would be a gross error. With Pakistan’s limited capacity to offer healthcare, its best chance lies in a protracted lockdown and arresting growth.