July 12, 2020

There is something good to report this week, even if it may be premature to call it a definitive pattern.

It has been four months since the pandemic first hit the country in late February. We have witnessed many ups and downs, in everything from the response of the health sector and the authorities to the incidence of the disease and the deaths caused due to it, to even how as a society Pakistanis came to terms with the virus. It has been a bumpy ride with a new challenge at every corner.

As we put this edition to bed, Pakistan has recorded over 240,000 clinically confirmed cases and around 5,000 deaths due to Covid-19. The crisis has tested the absolute limits of not just governments, systems and health professionals but also of societies, collectively, and of people, individually. In this report, we try to make sense of those behaviours.

There is something good to report this week, even if it may be premature to call it a definitive pattern. While the number of active cases in the country’s largest province, the Punjab, stands at almost 85,000, recent official figures suggest a declining trend. Some officials have called it a vindication of the efficacy of medical and social interventions that have been put in place.

But reservations persist. Given the lack of a policy of transparency, at least initially, it should not come as a surprise that all ‘good news’ is taken with a pinch of salt. The number of confirmed fresh infections may have declined but so has the number of tests done. Has the change in strategy been prompted by a lower number of people reporting their symptoms or is it the other way round – less tests are indicating a lower number of confirmed cases?

There is little point, however, in dismissing all positive news based on speculation alone. Granted that the virus is new, ongoing researches will improve our understanding of it. Early conclusions might turn out to have been flawed. But keeping even that possibility in mind, the manner in which containment and mitigation strategies were formulated, SOPs implemented and governance done, quite a few questions remain unanswered, even if out of sheer curiosity and not scepticism.

Four months down the line, we explore this and more.