The first two confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan have surfaced and it is time to prepare accordingly. The government’s careful screening of travellers on exit and entry points of the country delayed what was almost inevitable for so long. For this, health functionaries across the country and the federal government must be commended. But now, the task becomes much more difficult than it was before.

Screening at borders meant that the virus was controlled outside the country, but now, the government must form quarantine zones wherever needed to stop it from spreading as rapidly as it has in many countries. Tracing and testing all those that came in contact with the infected must be prioritised, after which they should be isolated for the incubation period of the virus. The Sindh government has formed a task force that will be testing over 1500 potentially exposed individuals; so far, the government looks to be active in dealing with this threat.

The biggest issue to avoid right now is to prevent an outbreak in our densely populated urban centres at all costs. The first two cases are reportedly in both Karachi and Islamabad, so the government will quite obviously have its hands full over the coming weeks in preventing the spread of the virus. Awareness campaigns must also be carried out on all forms of media and in public centres to ensure that the public is taking all the precautions necessary to stop the spread of the infection.

The best thing we can do as individual citizens is to not panic and stop the spread of misinformation or hysteria at this difficult time. The government already has a lot on its plate, and we can help by securing ourselves against the virus and not giving in to fear when there is no cause for it. China’s recent efforts in controlling the virus have been exemplary and hopefully, we will be able to do the same.