Will The Corona Tide Turn In Pakistan’s Favour?
Abdul Nadir writes about Pakistan’s efforts to defeat the coronavirus outbreak and whether the measures being taken by the authorities will bear fruit.
One of my respected colleagues, when I asked her to comment about so many vivacious views which have been expressed about Covid-10 pandemic, spontaneously replied, “Everybody wants a piece of corona pie; some are donning a cape, ready to take off as corona Superheroes!”
So while it appeared say four weeks ago, the attitude of Pakistani public and the government was somewhat lackadaisical about this pandemic, now it is on the other spectrum of extreme vigilance where many individuals would like the entire country to be placed under the curfew for several weeks. Many anchors based on predictive models prepared by the mathematicians are forecasting Armageddon in Pakistan when hundreds of thousands of corona viral infections in Pakistan will occur within a few days, leading to annihilation of the entire health care system! Some political commentators hoping for a change in the government are even foreshadowing that the Pakistani establishment is not on the same page as the ruling party, whom they have concluded as incompetent and incapable of leading Pakistan. If wishes were horses, beggars will ride!
On the other hand, in all fairness, the Covid-19 pandemic has unfolded much faster than anticipated, not even giving enough opportunity to the developed countries to stem it in time. Nonetheless, an under developed country like Pakistan having a common border with Iran and China, two epicenters of Covid-19, did make some measured decisions that might still avert a big fallout from the pandemic. Short of a curfew, the entire country is under a lockdown with institutions, railway tracks and airports being frozen.
The media is in a frenzy highlighting every new case of corona virus infection, forcing the government to track the footsteps of these cases and making containment zones in the areas where these cases reside and forcing people in quarantine to arrest the spread of the virus. BaraKou, H-9 and Shahzad town are examples of corona hot spots that are being contained by the security personnel in Islamabad.
Finally, the religious scholars are preaching a pragmatic version of Islam based on common sense that the congregations in mosques should be smaller, leaving less chance for the corona virus to propagate itself.
All this means is that the virus may not spread as linearly as predicted by the mathematicians who have based their astronomical numbers of corona viral infections without any consideration of the governmental interventions which are already in place. Moreover, a change of weather may still have some impact on Covid-19, the public education has been enhanced and basic tenets of prevention are more tightly adhered to than were expected from Pakistanis.
Another good news is that 75% of the corona viral infections in Pakistan are among pilgrims returning from Iran; another 15-20% from air travel, leaving only a minority of indigenously transmitted infections thus far. It is very clear that the Pakistani government will remain on its toes considering the tenacity of their leader Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has shown his commitment to this cause, although sometimes he has shown he can be stiff headed as well. Health Minister Zafar Mirza remains cool as a cucumber while making a cogent policy of prioritizing corona testing and isolating population exposed to the lethal virus.
The country cannot be locked down indefinitely and will need to be opened sooner than later in phases while still watching the corona hot spots with a hawk’s eye. Indeed this is not a 20-20 cricket game, it is a test match that will be played for a long time, perhaps for several months, and will test the true mettle of the Pakistani nation as well as those who are governing it. Pakistani government is trying hard to balance this health emergency with the current fiscal challenges prevailing in the country. It is a delicate dance, which if conducted with alacrity can still bring a more acceptable outcome of this pandemic in Pakistan.
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.