Science and Technology minister warns against ending lockdown restrictions before country reaches peak of COVID-19 infections
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry on Monday warned the government against prematurely easing lockdown restrictions, saying experts were currently predicting novel coronavirus infections in the country to peak around the middle of June, a month from now.
In a statement posted on Twitter—mere hours after Chief Justice of Pakistan Gulzar Ahmed came out in support of ending lockdowns and allowing businesses to resume business as usual by allowing markets to remain open 7 days a week and reopening shopping malls—Chaudhry said that a committee of experts at the Ministry of Science and Technology had stressed three main points regarding the spread of COVID-19 in Pakistan.
“1) Pakistan will experience the worst pressure from the coronavirus around mid-June; 2) The concept of herd immunity is a very dangerous consideration, and the government should not pursue this strategy under any circumstances; 3) the coronavirus is not just a cold/flu,” he posted on Twitter in Urdu.
Herd immunity refers to a controversial strategy under which a state decides to allow the virus to spread among the population without any restrictions in the belief that an excess of 65 percent of the population infected would produce ‘national immunity.’ Experts, including the World Health Organization, have repeatedly stated there is no evidence to support the belief that reinfections would not occur.
In a subsequent post, he said that the coronavirus problem was a “complex” issue and everyone has a right to advance opinions on how best to overcome it. “I think the prime minister’s smart lockdown policy is the only viable solution to this problem,” he said, referring to a targeted implementation of movement restrictions in areas where cases were found to be spiking.
“If the lockdown is ended without any precautions, there can be a lot of damage [to businesses and lives],” he added.
Prime Minister Imran Khan, in a nationally televised press briefing last week, said the coronavirus problem was here to stay and the country would “have to learn to live with it.” Defending his government’s decision to ease lockdowns nationwide, he said it was necessary to prevent people from dying of hunger after they lost their livelihoods due to the movement restrictions.
Khan also urged provincial governments to resume public transport, and has supported the resumption of domestic flights and train services—despite stringent resistance by healthcare workers who have warned that this would greatly boost the spread of the virus among the local population.
Amidst the ongoing ease in lockdown—with many observers now saying it is more of less finished—Pakistan’s confirmed cases of coronavirus on Tuesday climbed to 43,966 with 939 deaths and 12,489 recoveries, leaving 30,538 active cases.