Pakistani Nation Should Unite To Enforce A Complete LockDown to Fight Coronavirus
The strategies of Sindh and federal governments of Pakistan to combat the coronavirus have become a bone of contention. Sindh government has opted for a lockdown while the federal government is in favor of a partial shut-down. Prime Minister Imran addressed the nation twice and explained that any decision should be taken in the context of the sociocultural dynamics of Pakistan without aping the strategies of the other nations. He said, “In Pakistan citizens go out to fetch work daily to bring food to the table; our construction workers look for work with a pick-up in their hand on a daily basis.”
Why is a lockdown important?
In Wuhan, China, on January 15th, when only 500 patients were affected and few deaths has occurred, a complete shut-down was enforced with the intent of decreasing any chance of people clustering together and passing the virus to each other. Despite such strict measures, number of cases in China rose exponentially, and the indigenous outbreak was contained only after more 80,000 citizens were infected and nearly 3200 lost their lives. Currently, Pakistan has 790 reported cases with five deaths, clearly indicating that an indigenous spread of the virus is occurring and portending that an acute rise in corona infections can occur over the next few weeks.
Last Saturday, all international travel to Pakistan was banned for two weeks which is a step in the right direction. Educational institutions and government offices are already closed and those who can afford are sitting at home. However, this is still not enough. Do we expect that our daily wager earners will go out and find work in this situation? For example, a food vendor is expected to be not surrounded by his clients, who typically eat on the road side; or a construction worker will be able to work in isolation, without others coming in contact with him? Countries like China, Taiwan and South Korea stemmed the tide of Corona by freezing the cities or the entire country for a few weeks and let the virus not thrive by replicating in one citizen and then in another one.
Coronavirus infections cost more to the economy
Corona is a serious infection and the economic fallout from it without a timely intervention like a lock down will be worse later when thousands of people will be infected, hospitals will be inundated with sick patients and the entire medical work force will be exhausted. Do we trust that our entire population is taking it seriously?
There are reports that citizens are indulging in picnics on the beachside, infecting many others and finally showing up for medical care in an emergency with high grade fever. The health department is scrambling to find the contacts of these infected people. The developed world traced the contacts of corona patients by their cellphone and credit card data. Does Pakistan have the capacity to do that?
Time for clarity and unity
This is not a matter of anyone’s ego. We need to do what is best for Pakistan in the proper context and it appears the workable strategy is to enforce a complete shut-down of the entire country for at least two weeks by the army and other security personnel, who also need to be properly educated about the measures that can prevent the viral spread.
The federal and provincial governments will need to work in unison to take care of the less fortunate Pakistani citizens who will be negatively affected by this strategy. Pakistan can potentially flatten the curve of the corona pandemic and who knows the high temperatures may reduce the spread of infection, but a clear and uniform policy for the entire country is the need of the hour.
Dr. Abdul Nadir M.D. is an Assistant Professor at University of Arizona, U.S. He is the head of Gastroenterology and Hepatology at Maroof International Hospital, Islamabad.