The Punjab government’s decision to shut down quarantine centres across the province ought to be reviewed since COVID-19 transmissions are increasing at an alarmingly higher rate with each passing day. Under the revised policy, persons travelling to Pakistan are no longer being tested and allowed to reach their homes with the advice of monitoring their health and quarantining at home if they exhibit symptoms. While it is understood that local transmission has taken over infections for foreign sources, it does not justify completely giving up on the policy to test and quarantine arrivals until they are cleared.

The experience so far has made it abundantly clear that the public cannot be expected to exercise good judgment on its own and take precautionary measures to stop the spread of the virus. As done in other countries, the government has a defining role to play here, in which it must endeavour to enforce SOPs and restrictions at every level. Another lesson to be learnt is that tracking and testing should be the central feature of any policy created to fight the pandemic. Unfortunately, it appears that the authorities are no longer following this strategy with the focus that they exhibited in the initial days of the pandemic, when the situation was far less dangerous. Now, when efforts should have been enhanced, the new policies show little commitment towards sampling, tracking or quarantining suspected patients.

It is important to take stock of the current situation which has become extremely dangerous with new records of daily casualties and transmissions being set every day. Respective governments should seriously consider enforcing at least a comprehensive two-week lockdown in major urban centres across the country, especially in cities like Lahore and Karachi. This would give the authorities time to cope with the situation, ready hospitals and address the needs of existing patients. Is herd immunity a viable objective if it comes as a result of thousands of deaths, most of which will be from poor families?