PM Khan: You Have A Choice To Either Save People Or Their Livelihoods
It is arguably the most popular headline on the planet today. Every continent on the planet is anxious as the Covid-19 pandemic continues its rampage through various countries and cities. The airwaves are saturated with news and information about precautionary measures that individuals and communities should take to curb the menace of the Coronavirus.
At the time of writing this piece, the total number of Coronavirus cases recorded worldwide stands at a staggering 337,881 – with the death toll at 14,444.
The progression of these statistics is quite distressing because as of March 14, the numbers stood at 156,653 with 5,833 deaths. This indicates a 109% increase in total cases and a 147.6% increase in the death toll (8,611 new deaths) in just 8 days.
At this rate, we are looking at over 1 million worldwide cases and about 50,000 deaths worldwide by mid-April. These figures are minimum projections.
Now, let’s examine the numbers in Pakistan. On March 14, the number of Covid-19 cases recorded in Pakistan was 31. As of March 22nd, the number stood at 777: an increase of 2,406%, with the loss of 5 lives, which is quite alarming!
Yes, you read the numbers right, and this is in just 8 days. In Pakistan, our numbers have spiked at an exponential rate. With these trends, we can predict that considering the low rate of Covid-19 testing we are carrying out at this time alongside the lockdown measures employed in Sindh we will still hit 6,000 cases at a minimum estimation by the first week of April.
While active testing is not being conducted in Sindh at this time, only 2,209 tests have been done with 292 positive cases of Covid-19 recorded. This indicates a 13.21% infection rate. This shows that in Pakistani communities, the transmission is happening at an extremely rapid rate.
By now, Australia has conducted 127,000 Covid-19 tests and recorded 1,286 positive cases, which is a 1.01% infection rate. In comparison with our rate of Covid-19 testing and infection rate in Pakistan, these statistics indicate that we are recording far too many Coronavirus cases in Pakistan.
Italy has recored the highest rate of infection so far – with a staggering 59,138 cases at this time, which is an enormous spike from only 4 cases as of February 20. Pakistan is leaning dangerously towards an Italy-sized pandemic or worse – unless the country is locked down at once, rather than later, for the foreseeable future (a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks).
It is a fact that the virus cannot be stopped at this stage. The only feasible strategy is to control the spread. If we can successfully prevent a further spread, it will assist our healthcare sector and medical personnel to cope with the influx of patients.
For a country with a population of approximately 220-230 million, the Pakistani health system can only boast of just over 2,000 active ventilators, which are also required to serve existing patients. It cannot be assumed that all ventilators are available or exclusively designated for Coronavirus patients.
The US has just 13,000 ventilators in its stockpile and over 100,000 currently commissioned to their health system to cater to their population of 327 million. In a recent press statement by President Trump, the US is acquiring 500,000 more ventilators to fight the Coronavirus pandemic. Also, the CDC requires 300 million masks in the US, as they had only 30 million in their stockpile.
In Pakistan, we need at least 30 million masks but the data on how many we have in our stockpile is not available, as it has never been shared by the Special Assisstant to the PM, Dr. Zafar Mirza, in his briefings. The PM himself announced that we are securing 200,000 masks for our healthcare staff, which is not nearly sufficient.
This tells us how under-prepared we are to fight this pandemic in Pakistan. Our health system has not been proactive in managing this pandemic from the onset. At this time, global markets are uncertain and I cannot speculate on where Pakistan might acquire ventilators from – except perhaps with China’s help.
We also need PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), not only for our doctors, nurses, paramedics and other healthcare personnel but also for the people who are tasked with burying the bodies of Coronavirus fatalities. And these are needed for common people, too.
I implore everyone to maintain proper personal hygiene, practice social distancing and stay away from work and crowded areas. Also, do not visit the hospitals indiscriminately: so that the people who require medical attention can receive due and timely treatment.
In China, Wuhan and Hubei were locked down after 409 confirmed cases and still recorded 67,800 cases as of March 20 to stop the spread. This proves that we stand a chance to curb this pandemic in Pakistan if swift action is taken right now.
Hopefully, common sense will prevail and we will scale through this pandemic with minimal loss of lives.
Mr Prime Minister Imran Khan, you have a choice to either save the people of Pakistan or their livelihoods.
The information contained was obtained from worldometer.info. All facts and figures accurate as at 22:30 on Monday, 23 March 2020 (GMT+5)
Hassan is the founder of COMPACT Think Tank , CEO at Walayat Consultants, blogger and a political activist .