Return to normal

Pakistan has ranked third in the ‘Global Normalcy Index’ out of 50 countries released by the renowned ‘The Economist’ magazine. Prime Minister Imran Khan is elated that the government’s efforts despite fervent criticism at home have been globally acknowledged.

The “normalcy index” aims to determine which countries are returning to their pre-pandemic levels. It plummeted in March 2020 as many countries imposed restrictions on movement of citizens. Pakistan had also swiftly adopted such restrictions but despite our complete disregard, we have not witnessed the destruction as our neighbouring countries Iran and India. Pakistan has reported less than a million cases so far and the death toll is 22,000 which shows that we haven’t faced the brunt of the virus.

It must be mentioned that the “normalcy index” shows how countries returned after the pandemic and not how it dealt with it. It measures activity levels such as traffic congestion rates, cinema revenues, sports attendance, and footfall in shops over a year since the pandemic began. Pakistan has been quick to reopen factories, transport, and even markets, but still lags behind on restoring flight operations.

Although the government has been praising institutions for effectively handling the virus response, it must be noted that situation is worsening once again. Pakistan has seen a recent uptick in cases and the positivity ratio is rising. The NCOC has confirmed the presence of different variants – Apha, Beta, and Delta – in the country and a mutated local variant. There are reports that the virus is spreading more rapidly and the situation could worsen.

On the other hand, Pakistan has vaccinated only 3.5 percent of the eligible population despite the government’s efforts. The inoculation drive is marred by frequent vaccine shortages, misinformation, and hesitancy. Yet Pakistan was rather quick and hurriedly reopened all sectors of the economy. It should now be prepared for the imminent fourth wave of the virus. As the prime minister said, we should be grateful for the mercy of the Al-Mighty.