How Did Pakistan Manage To Improve The Covid Situation?
Pakistan received praise from the President of UN’s General Assembly and Bill Gates on how the coronavirus situation has improved. But this leaves us with a question as to how it all happened.
For many Pakistanis, the substantial turnaround in coronavirus outbreak in the country indeed appears to defy logic. We know there was no coherent policy of government and each province really had a different approach. Testing was not widely available and results would take time to arrive. Neither were there any advance medical facilities to take care of large influx of patients to save lives.
Even if the government insists that it happened thanks to their policies, the reality is the government had failed to enforce the Covid SOPs. It is something politicians from all political parties agreed upon and lamented that the citizens were not wearing masks. Life continued as usual and Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmeen Rashid even came under fire for calling Lahoris ‘ignorant and stupid’ for their complete disregard for SOPs and Lahore is the second largest city of Pakistan.
There were videos that went viral on social media which are undeniable proofs no SOPs were followed and life was as normal as it was before the pandemic. The roads were full of people, the playgrounds were full with young boys playing cricket. Jumma prayers were well attended. As if that was not enough, the Supreme Court ordered reopening of shopping malls when the government had shut them down.
This was like a major disaster is looming over our heads but thankfully it never happened at the scale feared and the curve has now started to flatten.
But how do we explain the falling curve?
The International community is quickly assuming that the government has something to do with it but as I have explained above, that’s hardly the case.
The only explanation is that in fact that virus has actually swept through the entire country and has essentially picked up everyone that it could and now there are only few people left! Most people appear to have responded very well to the virus in Pakistan, never even realizing that even had it or handled it with very mild symptoms that was never even a concern.
Simply put, the curve is now declining because the virus is not finding any more people to infect, so it’s naturally falling. This also appears to indicate that a large number of people who have had the virus have also developed immunity. The hot weather may have landed a helping hand as well.
My village in Swabi/KP present a good micro example of this as SOPs were particularly never followed in rural areas. My village Tordher was not any different, nobody observed any protocols or social distancing. Eventually the virus arrived and many people got sick, few quite severe. That said, there was only one death and that individual had pre-existing conditions.
Now everyone has recovered and life is back ro normal. They still don’t follow any SOPs and there are no more #Coronavirus related illnesses. It’s like coronoavirus has been defeated!
Could this be for real?
My belief in my model reinforced when I shared it with my sister who lives in Peshawar. Thankfully she and her family had never contracted the Covid so far. I told her that I think they all have probably been exposed to the virus but they are immune. Upon that, she informed me that two of her adult children did in fact get sick for a few days but it was nothing major and they recovered after few days and these events were ignored.
But a bit of eureka moment came when she told me about her husband. She said he had lost taste buds for one month but is now back to normal. I told her that sounds a lot like work of the coronavirus and thinking back, she agreed! But she had never suspected that before that her family was actually exposed to Covid.
I checked with another friend living in Pakistan and it was same story. He told me his folks also got very mild fewer but recovered quickly. Again, no tests were performed.
But how do we explain the low mortality rate?
The question remains as to why the mortality rate in Pakistan has been low and generally the people in Pakistan appears to have better immunity?
The answer lies again in the basics and it’s in fact quite simple. The people in Pakistan unfortunately don’t have access to clean water and the kind of best hygiene practices (like in food industry) that are standard in development countries. But nevertheless, water quality alone establishes the baseline. This has apparently resulted in a more robust immune system and has likely helped the people handle the coronavirus better.
Perhaps I can best explain this with my own example. I live in the US but when I go back to visit Pakistan, I can’t drink the water in my village. I get sick right away if I do. But the locals of course drink it and don’t get sick and even when I was living in Pakistan permanently, I was of course drinking the same water and I would also be fine.
It’s clear my immune system, living in the US is not as strong now as it was in Pakistan.
Likewise, this may sound very unappetizing but the hygiene at some of the street food is abysmal in Pakistan. I will spare the details but people have adopted with even that and they don’t get sick.
Another measure of the same phenomenon, when we compare different countries, is the heat wave related deaths in the US that often starts when the temperature is only in high 90s. In Pakistan, that usually happens when the mercury touches a whopping 115 degrees. It just shows that people in different geographical places responds differently to the same entities because they are well adopted to their environment.
The above is my effort to understand the decline of coronavirus in Pakistan as it presents an interesting puzzle. It doesn’t mean that that we should take it lightly and abandoned SOPs. It’s an established fact that countless people have indeed died from Covid19 in Pakistan and sadly will continue to loose lives but this article is an effort in aid of understanding this pandemic and that perhaps scientific community should explore this angle as well.
The writer is an engineer and author of a book on KP Police reforms. He tweets at @shazadk