Prime Minister Imran Khan, while briefing the media on the pandemic and the deliberations of the NCOC on Monday November 16, rightly urged the nation to follow SOPs strictly and wear facemasks in public, as it reduced the risk of contracting the virus. He said that the number of coronavirus cases had quadrupled during the last 14 days. He revealed that the government did not intend to close businesses and shops or ban prayers in mosques but it would make sure that they observe the SOPs in letter and spirit. The NCOC has been regularly monitoring and reviewing the permeating situation after which the Prime Minister announced the comeback by COVID-19. It is indeed a worrying situation, and the impact of the second wave can only be mitigated by wearing masks, observing social distance and following the SOPs issued by the government from time to time.

Another decision taken at the meeting as a result of reports of rapid increase in corona cases in Gilgit-Baltistan during the election campaign was banning of public gatherings and rallies. The fear is that this decision may not go well with opposition political parties who might attribute the step to a deliberate attempt by the PTI government to stop PDM public rallies already announced. In fact, echoes of defiance of this ban by the PDM parties have already started resonating. However, the fact that the Prime Minister also announced the cancellation of the planned rallies by PTI suggests otherwise. The move ostensibly seems based purely on considerations with regards to checking the spread of the virus than anything else. Public rallies and gatherings can aggravate the situation. It is a situation of national crisis and the opposition parties must give due consideration to their national obligations. The lives of people must also be their highest priority.

Pakistan is lucky that it managed to tackle the first wave admirably and the strategy adopted by the government received international acclaim as well, including by the World Health Organisation. The strategy worked due to cooperation by the religious leaders, business houses, the general public and the measures put in place by the government to create a balance between saving lives and livelihoods.

The approach of the Prime Minister is beyond reproach. Pakistan cannot afford a complete lockdown or shut down businesses and factories. Any such step would have a crushing impact on the economy—which is already in shambles—and also scuttle the ability of the government to persist with repeated relief assistance to the poor segments of society and daily wage earners.

COVID-19 according to WHO will be there for a long time and people must learn to live with the situation as a new normal. However, it has been observed that after the government strategy worked to contain the virus, the people lowered their guard and set aside the practice of following the SOPs as if the pandemic had vanished for ever, never to return. People flocked to markets as before, neglecting social distancing and even gave up wearing masks in public.

In case the situation continues to aggravate, the government might be forced to again put curbs and lockdowns to arrest the trend which might cause great inconvenience to the people. Therefore it is imperative for the people to show more discipline in their own and the country’s interest, acknowledging the fact that corona is still around and its spread could only be prevented through the observance of the SOPs. Everything cannot be left to the government and as citizens; it is our duty to contribute to the overall good of the society by supporting the initiatives of the government in letter and spirit. As they say no policy or strategy of the government in such situations can succeed without wholehearted cooperation of the masses, the people will have to support government efforts to save their lives and livelihoods.

Malik Muhammad Ashraf

The writer is a freelance columnist. He can be reached at ashpak10@gmail.com.