As feared when the government presented a 20-point plan to be followed by mosques for holding congregations during Ramzan, the first day of the month has revealed serious gaps in compliance and enforcement. Special Assistant to the Prime Minister, Dr Zafar Mirza, has expressed concerns over the possibility of rapid transmission noting that citizens did not observe social distancing as people crowded different locations, especially during Iftar hours. This does not bode well for Pakistan’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as cases cross the 13,000 mark, most of which are a result of local transmissions.

The government had relied primarily on mosque administrations and appealed to the sense of responsibility among common citizens to make its Ramzan strategy successful. With a massive population and a high number of mosques of varying capacity, it is almost impossible for the authorities to reach each location for implementation of SOPs. A report by an NGO has also noted that most mosques violated four or more terms of the 20-point plan. This is an alarming situation, which must be tackled immediately to prevent things from spiralling out of control. The nature of the coronavirus is such that it does not take long for exponential growth to occur, if preventive measures are not taken instantly. Despite limited resources, the government has so far been able to keep the populace relatively secure owing to an aggressive and proactive approach. However, as pointed out in press conferences held by doctors and seconded by Dr Zafar Mirza, the ease in restrictions has certainly come with increased risks of transmission.

Primarily concerned over the hardships faced by low-income groups, the government had taken a difficult decision in partially lifting the lockdown. It would be highly unfortunate if the clergy and the common citizens do not exhibit responsible behaviour at this crucial juncture. If things go on the way they have on the first day of Ramzan, the government may feel compelled to reverse its decision.