26 February 2020- The day that marked the provenance of Covid-19 ordeal in Pakistan. Yet over four months later, the disease continues festering at a more bolting pace than before. With over one hundred ninety-six thousand lives jeopardized by the predicament of covid-19; Government’s SOPs, NCC/NOC meetings, and the plethora of strategies, have but portrayed an incompetent state of affairs.
The loopholes at strategic and institutional levels that are hindering Pakistan from conquering the plight of covid-19. The delay and nonchalance of the Government towards imposing a strict lockdown, was the fundamental and biggest reason of the current debacle. The situation gravitated towards even further complexities when GOP succumbed to the pressures of the economic and religious entities.
China, Italy, Singapore, Germany presented successful lockdown models; a strict lockdown followed by smart one. However, Pakistan lost control of the situation by not adopting the internationally tested models. In initial phase of the outbreak, Pakistan blatantly underestimated the virus and its potential lethal consequences; hence, the disaster today.
It is very important to realize that the level of investments in Education and Health Sector we made for 72 years in Pakistan today we are getting its profit in terms of prevalent poverty, illiteracy and poor public health system. Resulting in primary deviation of masses from basic health practices over the years.
Internalizing basic sanitization culture cannot be achieved in a matter of merely few months. But the rigorous and repetitive media sanitization campaign can be effective. However, a historically paralyzed Health Sector- that is now struggling to bear the brunt and burden of the disease- is signaling that aggravation of the crisis is imminent. Unless a vaccine is invented.
Despite Ehsaas Program by the GOP along with other lockdown tactics, the virus continued doing the damage. In the last 72 years, had Pakistan invested in building sound Health and Education sector, it could have fought covid-19 with same smart lockdown strategies as countries like Japan. But unlike other parts of the world, acute trust deficit between people and government, poor abidance towards SOPs and the mass mentality of laughing off the virus as a hoax – have all significantly contributed in situation spiraling out of control. Maltreatment with patients in quarantine, corruption and politicization of the crisis across the hierarchy- has further allowed covid-19 to colossally penetrate into the country.
In the first wave of the virus Pakistan witnessed an average of 400 cases per day. Two months later, the cases have multiplied fourfold i.e. around 4000 patients per day. Another two months down the road, Pakistan can be in serious turmoil.
Furthermore, we cannot put all blame on people the solution lies not within the public only. Masses across the equator (England, USA), have portrayed the universal trait of deviating from lockdown rules. GOP did not exercise its legal power in reinforcing a strict lockdown as witnessed during Eid. And this manifested as the second biggest reason of escalation of the covid-19 crisis.
Surely the demographic fabric of the Developed Countries (such as Germany, Japan, New Zealand) highly contrasts with that of Pakistan. But even those countries that are in demographic and economic semblance with Pakistan emerged beyond the crisis primarily due to a strict lockdown provision, just like Costa Rica. Along with strict lockdown, these countries monetarily compensated the underprivileged and middles class, health-workers. Thus Pakistan is in dire need of executing similar strategies; even though it has exhausted its chance of implementing a severe lockdown.
The pandemic has also taken form of “infodemic”: attracting masses to tantalizing but potentially deceiving conspiracy theories. However, the onus lies on the government. In collaboration with opinion leaders of various communities, GOP should maneuver the masses to deal with the pandemic as a responsible citizen than a conspiracy-theory monger.
This pandemic is a catastrophic consequence of climate change, Covid-19 along with locust plague can be exploited as an opportunity to not only instill mass awareness regarding unprecedented crisis caused by climate change but also prepare them to prevent similar future disasters via fulfillment of United Nations Sustainable Developmental Goals 13, 14 and 15.
For the next 2 years, the situation seems to be grim. The general public cannot be held solely liable in case of turbulent turn of affairs; mostly because in last 72 years, no sustainable and progressive institutional effort was directed towards securing a common man and ameliorating his partnership with the State.
The solution surely rest in competent governance and management, resilient policy along with conformity of the masses to rules and regulations. Hence as a civil society we advise the government to empower the patients, doctors and general masses. It is crucial to provide relevant medical equipment, ensure non-reduction salary policy and provision of services to the masses, robust mechanism of segregating between positive-tested and negative-tested, not force those citizens into isolation who have tested negative but have positive tested relatives.
In addition to this, the employer should be ethically and legally bound to supply their employee with preventive gear. On individual level, one must make a conscious effort of maintaining social distance. As far as academic institutions are concerned, it is urged to GOP that educational institutions should be operational on virtual portals and not reopen until the outbreak is completely defeated. The provision of free internet require a meager investment to regularize online teaching for our future.