Wednesday, December 15

Karachi 2021

If you would have asked me earlier this year if there would be a Karachi post dated 2021 I'd have scoffed at the idea - even 2022 seemed precarious. So it was with part disbelief and part trepidation that I boarded my flight to the city, a good twenty months or so since our last visit. That was a record gap in recent times.

That said things were looking good. I knew others who had been travelling, and of course the global situation was much better than it had been. Except that a new corona variant, later to be named Omicron, had been disclosed by South Africa the day before I was flying out. Yikes.

But away I went, looking forward to a visit long overdue.

On landing, it was pretty astonishing how little people cared about the virus. It was partly a resignation to having to get on with life, but more than once I heard the phrase "There is no COVID here". Frankly I was getting ready to contract the disease. As usual, I went to offer prayers in the local mosque, and that first visit turned out to be my last after facing the mask-less shoulder to shoulder congregation there.

But then the weddings started, and although I have no qualms being the odd one out, keeping my mask on during these events helped others, not me (although considering the rapid spread of Omicron in the UK, perhaps I was the risk here).

And so slowly over time I became more and more comfortable with the situation, almost believing the hype in that there was no COVID in Karachi. I'm not sure why - perhaps the population does have the superhuman immune system they claim, or perhaps herd immunity had already been achieved. It's even possible that all at fatal risk had already passed away - the lack of testing and post mortems don't help with that. The point is that it felt safe - at least subjectively and anecdotally, and in such an environment it's tough to keep making a stand, particularly as my frequent LFDs were coming back negative.

The COVID situation was a story of two halves though. The fancier places - malls and the like - insisted on seeing proof of vaccination before entry and security were constantly reminding people to cover their faces properly, nose and all - there were no "medically exempt" badges here. I must admit I enjoyed how the rules being taken seriously, at least in terms of enforcement.

So yes, a pretty successful and well needed trip overall. In fact what I believe is the first time, I actually felt that the trip should have been extended - particularly when coming back to 50k new infections daily in the UK. It's quite amusing to realise that I felt safer in Karachi than I do in London these days.