As global cases of the coronavirus increase in different countries, Pakistan is no different. With a case in Gilgit-Baltistan propping up on Wednesday, our tally of infected persons has reached 20, where only two days ago it was six. The fact that the cases doubled in roughly 24 hours is not at all surprising; so far, all those that have tested positive have a travel history associated to a country with a large number of infections. It was only a matter of time before we saw more incidences as more and more Pakistanis were allowed across the border.

The key difference in some of these cases however, as that the virus is no longer limited to Karachi and Islamabad. Balochistan and Gilgit-Baltistan now have cases as well. And this is where our real collective test begins.

The most important aspect of this is to remain calm regardless of all the panic that we have seen spreading across the globe. Instead of letting hysteria and fear-mongering dominate the narrative around the infection, the public needs to stay vigilant and ensure that they protect themselves in the best way possible. Avoiding unnecessary public gatherings or physical contact, washing one’s hands regularly and not touching the face might seem like small attempts to stop a seemingly unstoppable disease, but in reality, this is the difference between infection and safety. The public is responsible for protecting itself just as much as the government is answerable for its containment policies. This must be a united effort.

Naturally, on its part, the government must continue to be vigilant and develop phases of action to be implemented if one level of containment has been breached. The way the Chinese authorities handled containment and quarantine might seem harsh to the untrained eye, but their methods have proven to be extremely effective. Preventing the virus from reaching critical mass is the only thing that matters, and if entire cities must be quarantined at a later stage for this to happen, we must be prepared and support the government’s actions, as this might the difference between a rise in cases or protection from the virus.