With the coronavirus epidemic showing no signs of slowing down, the blows keep coming and the challenges keep mounting.
For the administration in the capital, where the soaring Covid-19 cases have crossed the 68,000 mark, the increasing disdain for the standard preventive measures has emerged as the single most daunting challenge.
Health experts in the city have cautioned that such behaviour can lead to an increase in the infection rate. But all such warnings appear to be falling on deaf ears in most parts of the capital.
According to details gathered by the Express Tribune, traders and shopkeepers based in Aabpara Market, Melody Market, Blue Area, Supermarket, Jinnah Supermarket, Sabzi Mandi, and Kohsar Market, which is situated in the upscale commercial area, appear to be violating the standard safety guidelines. “There is absolutely no regard for social distancing in most areas of the city,” said one irked Islamabad resident.
Despite the steady increase in the demand for vaccines in the capital, medical experts believe that coronavirus cannot be defeated by mass immunisation alone.
“Vaccination alone cannot reduce the number of Covid-19 cases. It is impossible to eradicate the deadly respiratory disease without the full cooperation of the people,” explained Dr Naveed Atta Malik, an Islamabad-based medical practitioner. Social restrictions, Dr Malik said, play an important role in preventing the spread of the coronavirus. “So, everyone has to play their part,” he urged.
According to details available on the government’s dedicated coronavirus portal, the number of cases in Islamabad has steadily increased since last month. On March 21, the city’s total stood at 52,086 cases. The number of positive cases, the portal shows, has increased by 15,980 over the past 24 days, which is an average of 665 cases per day.
“People are already aware of the threat. This is not the first wave of the virus. They should be wearing masks and must stay away from crowded places,” cautioned Dr Malik. “If safety rules are flouted, the city will witness an even greater increase in the number of positive cases,” he added.
Commenting on the compliance issue, a senior mental health expert said: “It has been one of the most misunderstood concepts of this pandemic. By now, with all the extended restrictions, people, too, are fatigued.” However, he agreed that a breach of safety rules will lead to a greater number of positive cases in the city.
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While options to combat the coronavirus are limited, global and local healthcare experts agree that the super spreader can be controlled by strict adherence to social distancing and wearing face masks.
On the other hand, the increase in coronavirus cases has triggered a surge in the prices of essential items that have been in demand during the pandemic. Once again, the prices of oxygen cylinders, face masks, and hand sanitisers have witnessed a significant increase.
“What is the government doing? Shouldn’t they regulate the prices of oxygen cylinders and face masks? questioned one resident, who claimed that shopkeepers were creating an artificial shortage of masks and other items to justify the price hike during the third wave.
Price regulation of essential supplies, a medical expert said, is needed during the pandemic. To prevent the spread of the virus in the city, he said, the government must impose hefty penalties on people who violate the rules.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2021.