There are many unknowns surrounding the coronavirus that is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China. The fact that no vaccine exists for it as of yet, and its similarities to other common infections – making it harder to detect – are only two of many factors that have understandably led to widespread concern. China has already placed four entire cities under lockdown, which means they have essentially been placed under quarantine, not to mention an additional six cities where public transport has been shut down and movement restricted.

Quite naturally, as a neighbouring country and close trading partner, Pakistan must also be careful. Our healthcare system does not always provide the highest quality of services, and a virus like this could be devastating if it is allowed to spread. High population density areas – which, like China, we have a lot of – and urban centres will be adversely affected if the government does not look to prevent the virus from making its way across the border.

Measures have already been taken to screen travellers coming in from international flights, which is an important step in countering the spread of a potentially dangerous virus. However, on its own, this might not be sufficient. For a disease like this, even the tiniest of slip-ups can lead to catastrophic results. Only covering air travel alone is not enough to ensure that the virus does not spread.

A lot of cross-border trade comes through land, and perhaps improving scrutiny through road trade routes must also be considered. Admittedly this is a logistical nightmare to manage for any state institution; the amount of traffic that moves between borders is virtually impossible to screen in its entirety. But checking travel logs and separating transports that come from the affected areas is still achievable.

The government has started work on countering the spread of a virus, but there is still more that can be done to ensure that our citizens are protected. There is a lot still that in the dark with this potential epidemic, but the fact that it hasn’t become an international outbreak so far is positive, and it is important that every single precaution possible is taken at the earliest. The health and safety of the Pakistani people must be prioritised here.