Pakistan, the impoverished Muslim-majority nation of 230 million, was hit pretty hard with the novel coronavirus. More than 260,000 Pakistanis have been infected, over 200,000 have recovered, and more than 5,500 have died. However, they seem to have found an effective measure that is flattening the Covid-19 curve.
According to the Covidtracker.com, Pakistan has managed to keep the fatality rate down to 2.1% while its neighbour India's fatality rate remains at 2.7%. So how did Pakistan got on top its game?
In hundreds of areas where the virus had escalated, Prime Minister Imran Khan introduced a two-week "hot spot" lockdown programme. Khan also requested the military to aid in the war, and their role in logistics, defence, and surveillance helped flatten the curve of coronavirus.
Fewer than 2,200 new cases and 70 deaths were reported on a typical day over the last few weeks, whereas in June, the daily number of cases even reached 6,000 per day and some days saw nearly 150 deaths, reports The Washington Post.
"Smart lockdowns, a stronger enforcement effort, compliance of SOPs and the nationwide change in the behaviour can be credited for the current gains in the fight against the Covid-19 virus," Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar told The Express Tribune.
The minister said a 28% nationwide reduction was recorded in the number of critical cases as a result of the selective lockdowns and implementation of SOPs introduced by the National Command and Operation Centre.
Umar expressed that it is unsustainable to shut down a nation completely, so "The only way is to identify high-density hotspots and target them accordingly."
As long as the hotspot areas are taken out of the whole network, the minister said, the cumulative impact is reduced. "That coupled with behavioural change has helped Pakistan in controlling the contagion," he claimed.
Initially when Prime Minister Imran Khan introduced the smart lockdown concept, he was fiercely opposed. But now as the results show that the measure works, many developing nations are also promoting the policy. Germany, Italy and Portugal are also discussing urban shutdowns to avert a new increase in infections of coronavirus. More and more countries are closing down smaller territories, as opposed to shutting down the whole country.
"The only solution as the world has discovered is a smart lockdown, which allows for economic activity with SOPs. We are amongst the pioneers of this approach," the prime minister said in his post on Twitter.
In total, the government's central response unit has imposed more than 500 smart lockdowns to control the disease from spreading.
"So far, we imposed 551 lockdowns across the country," said one senior official at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), which serves as the nation's nerve centre in the battle against Covid-19. In total, 8.2million are currently under lockdown," he said.
Active campaigns coupled with the smart lockdowns, the NCOC official said, have helped Pakistan in flattening the Covid-19 curve. There has been a shift in behaviour in the country as well. "Through administrative efforts and consistent campaigning, the use of face masks has increased by 1,400%, and the use of gloves has increased by 766%," he said.
While Pakistan has made significant progress in tackling the coronavirus, it still has a long way to go. The road ahead is full of challenges. And the upcoming festivities on Eid just adds to the growing concerns.
"I urge the nation to continue observing [precautions] essential to sustain our positive trend. Eid ul Azha must be celebrated with simplicity so as not to repeat what happened last Eid," Prime Minister Imran Khan said in tweets on Friday.
Minister Asad Umar cautioned citizens, "They need to keep the guard up during the upcoming Eid and even during the 10 days of Muḥarram. The gains in the fight against Covid-19 can easily be reversed if we let the guard down."