COVID-19 Crisis: The Government Needs ‘Help’
Now that we have approached the dreaded 100,000 figure with nearly 2000 Covid related deaths, we saw our government functionaries from top to bottom go through the proverbial “grief reaction” spanning denial and isolation, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
We were in a state of “denial” with statements like “we are doing the best according to WHO” and thus missed the Torkham ‘plot’ completely. By cohorting the exposed, uninfected and infected, without testing, we opened up the Covid spillways throughout the country. Likewise we were lulled into thinking that the virus will not affect the Raiwind gatherings of the faithful, which has no religious significance like Eid or Ramadan but is a voluntary learning and mutually supportive activity, that could be postponed like examinations or Olympics can, in the face of impending disasters. By its own acts of envy and misplaced competition with the provinces, the federal government thus isolated itself.
Then came the “anger” directed at everyone except the common enemy, the dreaded SARS Coronavirus.
It was a competition in humiliating the efforts of all who were proactive and this became a matter of misplaced pride, married with ignorance.
Then started the “bargaining” with the religious clergy, a concept alien to Islam but very much a political entity in the Islamic republic of Pakistan. So we went through pains right from the President’s office to appease those who could not fathom how the progressive Muslim countries, at least in these matters of religion, actually prohibited congregational prayers perfectly in line with Hadith and Fiqh vis-a vis fear, plague and preservation of life. So half baked social distancing mixed messaging followed with the ultimate absurdity of opening up malls and bazaars at Eid, knowingly fully well the virus’s infectivity and the nation’s indiscipline.
It seems that currently the government has gone into a “depression” with a call to individual sensibilities and responsibilities and irrational and rash decision-making like opening up tourism, even as the stark figures ramp up on the television screens by the hour.
By continuing to talk about low death rates and that we must live with the virus and it’s mixed messaging from the prime minister who still considers himself an invincible athelete, refusing to wear a mask or only reluctantly so, we appear to have slipped into an abyss.
It is not to say the federal government and provincial ones are doing nothing, for they seem to be spending hours on tackling this national crisis but the worrying part is the immature attitude and confusion that is being conveyed through high level statements. At least that is what we as a nation are sensing and perceiving. Perceptions as they say constitute ‘half the reality.’
We are still far from the “acceptance ” phase of the actual reality. Preliminary reports suggest that despite the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting gross inadequacies and disparities within our healthcare delivery system, the healthcare budget will remain less than 1% of our GDP in 2020 -2021. The government indeed needs “help”.
Prof. Mujtaba Quadri is Head of Nephrology at Maroof international Hospital, Islamabad.