As the pandemic ebbs away and Covid-19 cases start to globally fall, countries all over the world have begun to end pandemic restrictions and SOP mandates. Masks and sanitisers are no longer being used, travel restrictions have been lifted, and organisations have stopped taking Covid-19 tests. There is desperation to go back to the ‘normal’ pre-pandemic days and continue with business as usual.
Pakistan too has decided to follow suit after Federal Minister Asad Umar announced on Wednesday that the government is set to lift all Covid-related restrictions across the country. He asserted that there would indeed be restrictions on the unvaccinated. Even though the government believes that Pakistan has come close to eliminating the pandemic and the minister said that monitoring of cases would still continue, is it prudent to end restrictions all at once? While Pakistan would benefit from the decision from an economic and perhaps tourism point of view, the dangers of declaring a premature win over the pandemic are very real and can prove detrimental in the long run. Officials are banking on the fact that 87% of the eligible population has received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine while 70% have been fully vaccinated — which is not far from the target of 85% fully vaccinated. The NCOC must realise that relying on vaccinations alone could be a grave mistake. This is because vaccines have not been tested for long-term efficacy as we currently only know that their efficacy reduces significantly after 6 months, requiring us to take booster shots. Chinese vaccines, administered to a majority in Pakistan, have seen their effectiveness decrease by about 70%.
Even though travel restrictions have also been eased, there is no telling when and from which part of the world the next deadly variant may emerge. While Pakistan should enjoy a period of relaxation, some restrictive measures such as testing, especially during travel, and mask mandates must continue for general safety and monitoring purposes. There is no room for complacency as the future remains precarious.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2022.