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Pakistan’s Poor Planning For A Pandemic

 

Since the Coronavirus (COVID-19) was first reported in China in December 2019, many countries have now reported cases of infection, affecting people of all ages from different nationalities. This pandemic is having an adverse effect on many aspects of our life -– everything from travel restrictions to shopping habits to schools and everyday activities.

As the situation grows seemingly worse, the hysteria surrounding this outbreak is causing great anxiety and angst to people everywhere. The virus, which first emerged in China, has now infected more than 89,000 people in 70 countries on every continent but Antarctica. The death toll has topped 3,000 with majority casualties being reported from China.

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread in China and around the world, experts are getting a better handle on the severity of the disease, how it progresses in patients and just how easily it can spread in enclosed places, such as hospitals.

Measures in India

Amid the uptick in coronavirus cases in India, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured citizens there was “no need to panic” and that ministries were working together to contain the infection. In the 30-minutes television address, which began at 8 pm, the Prime Minister started by highlighting the gravity of the situation – that coronavirus disease Covid-19 has affected more people than the two World Wars.

He also urged the countrymen to avoid stepping out of home unless necessary and presented a promise that there won’t be a shortage of essential supplies.

He informed that a dedicated Helpline had been established for the provision of information on the disease to the general public and health-care providers and similarly a Whatsapp chatbot on Corona related queries has been set up.

Such is the kind of encouragement and motivation required during trying times like these.

Situation in Pakistan

Meanwhile, in Pakistan a hapless Khan says it is not feasible for Pakistan to lock down cities, as it could result in mass unemployment and impoverished people ‘dying from hunger’. Pakistan is currently torn on how to react to the exponential rise in coronavirus cases since the weekend, following the failure of measures to prevent its spread from neighbouring Iran, where more than 1,000 people have died of the illness.

The number of confirmed infections in Pakistan shot up thirteen-fold between Friday and Wednesday to reach 257, as officials in its four provinces screened thousands of returning Shia Muslim pilgrims previously held in quarantine camps on the border with Iran. A 90-year-old man suspected of having contracted the virus died in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region bordering Xinjiang. A person suffering from the disease has died after the ventilator being used to treat him broke down. The government of southern Sindh province, which has documented 189 cases so far, ordered a 15-day closure of government offices, restaurants and markets, and suspended intercity bus services. Last week, Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah instructed all schools and colleges in the province to close until May 30, and banned public gatherings.

The council also restricted international flights to Pakistan’s three biggest airports, but they did not ban flights from any other countries, despite a growing number of infections among expatriates flying in from the Gulf Arab states and the West. Although religious gatherings in Iran had led to the disease spreading to Pakistan and other countries in the region, the government did not order a ban on prayer congregations, although they have been suspended in a growing number of other virus-afflicted Muslim countries.

Khan did not announce a regime of containment measures, as was widely anticipated. Instead, he advised Pakistanis to prepare themselves for a nationwide epidemic, assuring them that the vast majority of infected people would recover after suffering mild symptoms. Seems like Mr. Khan is frozen like a deer caught in headlights and he just doesn’t know how to brace the nature for the impact.

The prime minister’s call for calm came as a political blame game raged over the failure of officials to diagnose infections among more than 5,000 people quarantined at a camp near the Taftan border crossing with Iran.

After spending 14 days at the squalid tent camp, where they were not tested for infection unless feverish, inmates were allowed to return home. In most cases, this entailed a journey of many hundreds of kilometers through vast, remote Balochistan province to other more populous parts of the country entailing several interconnecting bus and train journeys via urban hubs.

Responding to criticism, Balochistan’s home minister Zia Lango admitted that the mobile testing unit used at the Taftan quarantine camp had malfunctioned, only registering seven infections. However, Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan complained that his administration – which is controlled by Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party – had received very little support from the federal government, including a paltry 300 testing kits.

Earlier, the government decided not to evacuate more than 1,000 Pakistani students from Hubei province, ignoring demands from their irate parents and explaining that Pakistan wanted to show solidarity with its staunch ally, China. Addressing a press conference, Dr. Mirza said that there was no immediate need to lockdown cities in the country as the situation is “still under control”. He assured the public that the current preventive measures adopted by the health ministry are sufficient to control the spread of the novel coronavirus in Pakistan.

Whereas people in the Taftan camp said they were not being adequately screened for coronavirus or treated for existing conditions. They also complained of squalid living conditions at the facility, which is housing hundreds of people.

“We are sleeping in tents, with up to five people in one tent because there is a shortage of space here,” said Amir Ali, 26, a travel agent who was brought to Taftan camp on March 3.”There are not enough bathrooms or enough water. The system for screening is not as they claim. They are not giving us all these medicines,” he added.

Certain videos from the camp showed rows of tents, basic bathroom facilities and some people forced to sleep in close quarters on the floor of the town’s main government building.

Viewpoint

In Pakistan, there is shortage of nurses, doctors, health test kits, and medical facilities. The impact of the government’s negligence towards health care on people of Pakistan can be seen from the latest incident. The effect of the poor public health system can be seen from the ever-increasing cases of Coronavirus and the lack of government seriousness in just unbelievable. It seems that the country is not only in need of a strong healthcare system, but it also needs a strong leader that can save them from this global disaster.

In times of a pandemic breakout, citizens look up to their government for direction. But in Pakistan, the Imran Khan government has no plan and no direction to deal with the coronavirus. May Allah have mercy on them.

20 Mar 20/Friday                                                                                      Written By: Saima Ebrahim

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