The novel coronavirus has made its way to the province of Punjab. Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid on Tuesday confirmed that the number of coronavirus patients in Punjab has escalated to six, taking the national tally to 296. The government’s inability to control, isolate and treat people coming in from Iran has risked the entire population being exposed to the virus. Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan’s press conference regarding the virus does ensure that the government is doing everything it can to help the masses at the moment, however, self-care is extremely important in this situation. Developed countries lack the facilities at this point to provide treatment and safety to their citizens – a country like Pakistan will have to double its efforts to ensure that the virus infects as few people as possible.

The government needs to rigorously devise awareness campaigns urging people to practice social distancing and practice all the necessary health tips that medical professionals are offering in this case. At the same time, it is important to not engage in mass hysteria. The government needs to air advertisements highlighting when people should go to hospitals with limited resources to get themselves checked. But due to the extraordinary circumstances, people are also failing to understand the idea of quarantine because of which they fear to get themselves tested. There are also troubling reports of patients fleeing hospitals due to the fear of identification and isolation. It is this sort of reaction that will quickly make this situation a nightmare for us to deal with.

The virus is expected to last until spring 2021. Such a spread requires consistent efforts on part of the people and the government. A country that cannot afford to shut down completely can at least make the effort to provide relief to the population in any manner possible. This is especially a time when the government needs to rely on the help of all political actors, but with citizens doing much more to manage the situation effectively.