By Tahir Abbas
The viral outbreak of the noval coronavirus (COVID-19) that began in China earlier in late December 2019 has infected almost 200, 000 people globally. More than 7,900 people have lost their lives. Around 82,000 people have also recovered.
The world’s economy has already been roiled in the past couple of months due to mounting fears and anxiety. Economies of the world in every sphere are seeing sharp downswings and the world is expected to see billions of dollars worth of revenue losses as a result of the fallout from the efforts to contain the spread of the virus. Businesses all over the world are now dealing with lost revenues because of the disrupted supply chains due to the factory shutdowns in China, the second largest economy of the world.
Drastic steps have been taken by various governments to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus sweeping the globe. Many countries have placed quarantine measures on their citizens as health officials are urging ‘’social distancing’’ to slow the spread of the virus. According to UNESCO, almost 300 million students of 22 countries are out of school. The worship in the Middle East was disrupted last week when Saudi Arabia banned its citizens and other residents of the kingdom from performing the pilgrimage in Makkah. After China and Iran; Italy, the first nation in Europe to be affected so badly, has shut nearly all shops, except pharmacies and those stocking food.
Since the virus outbreak has had an unparallel impact everywhere, affecting more than 150 countries across the globe, Pakistan is no exemption. According to Asian Development Bank (ADB), Pakistan’s economy can suffer a maximum of 1.57pc gross domestic product losses in case of an outbreak of the noval coronavirus in the country.
Although, there are no indications emerging of a widespread outbreak of the virus, but the number of people diagnosed positive is rising each day. The spread has been exponential in the past few days and the total number of reported patients is already in the low 50s, as of Sunday. The government unfortunately displayed negligence towards the emerging challenge, and decisions were not taken at the best of times. In spite of being geographically sandwiched between China and Iran, the government pretended that there was no such thing as coronavirus in Pakistan. Precautionary measures were taken only after the World Health Organization (WHO) declared coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.
Where large events were being called off in the neighboring countries because of the growing fears over the worsening epidemic, Pakistan Super League (PSL) matches were played in fully crowded stadiums which displayed the carelessness and unscrupulousness of both our government as well as the people. Aurat March went through as normal and not a single effort was made to educate them about the seriousness of the pandemic.
Although, the government has banned new arrivals and restricted the points of entry into the country, but the measures should not be limited to the borders. Since Sindh is the most affected province as of now, and hence a watchful eye has to be kept within the country to restrict inter-provincial transmission of the virus. In China, people were restricted to exit Wuham, and face detection technology was used to identify people who visited the infected province, but we are going in the opposite direction here in Pakistan. A large number of students from all over Pakistan are getting education in Karachi, and instead of limiting their move, they are being forced to leave the city without screening, and same is the case in the other major cities. Irresponsibility and ignorance were earlier shown at Pak-Iran border; otherwise the virus could have been restricted to enter the homeland by keeping the arrivals (zayireen) in isolation for 14 days. And we are again doing the same mistake. More serious and comprehensive measures from both the federal and provincial governments are required to contain the pandemic; we can otherwise have far more cases all over Pakistan.
Moreover, it’s now the time for everyone to step up. We can together kick the disease away from the shores of our beloved homeland by simply practicing the precautionary measures. The aim of closing educational institutions and businesses is to limit the spread of the virus through social distancing, and it cannot be taken for granted. If our medical personals can fight the disease by working 24/7, then we too can contribute our part by just staying at home; and this is the most the country expects from its responsible citizens at this time of need.
And it’s always better to care than to be cured. There is no reason to be panic at all because as per the recent Chinese statistics, 93% of the closed cases are the recovered patients and 90% of the active cases are in mild condition. The fatality rate of COVID-19 is even lower than the SARS, which also originated in China back in 2002 where 10% of the people infected with the particular virus family were died. The question is not how to survive, but how to limit the spread of the pandemic; and togetherness is the answer. We can fight together and can together beat the disease. We have to take care of ourselves as well as others because we can only be safe if everyone around us is safe; and taking care of others is perhaps the preaching of Islam.