Covid-19: Response of World Leaders, and Imran Khan

Sher Azam Khan 

In December 1, 2019, the novel coronavirus was traced in Wuhan, Hubei province, China. Since then it has spread throughout the world. All of a sudden the dynamic world has become stagnant; be it the business sector, educational institutions, religious gatherings, or tourism. Everyone is in a state of fear and psychological depression. Scientists are working to find out the solution for this pandemic virus but it will take at least a year to prepare a vaccine. Even this developed world is helpless in containing the virus.

The question arises, how this virus was able to outflank the whole world? What is the reason that China, being the first victim, was able to control the spread but Europe and America are helpless in controlling the pandemic. To find out the answer of these questions, I went through some 20 articles in four international journals and newspapers, namely, The Guardian, The New York Times, CNBC, and the Dawn newspaper. I came to the conclusion that it is the lack of seriousness and delayed action of the world political leaders, especially that of Europe and America, towards this pandemic virus that has brought the world to the current situation.

To prove my point, let’s start with Boris Johnson, the prime minister of Britain. Two months after the first virus was traced, Mr. Johnson was spending his mid-February holiday with his pregnant fiancée at his county home. Even after the virus become impossible to ignore, he remained insincere and offhand, as his government dithered and failed to put together a coherent response. In his March 3, news conference he said, “The best thing you can do is to wash your hands with soap and hot water while singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice. We should all basically just go about our normal daily lives.” This prompted the Guardian to call him ‘the UK’s own super-spreader.’ Later on Mr. Johnson was tested positive for the coronavirus.

Mr. Donald Trump, the president of United States of America, has a similar non-serious attitude towards the novel coronavirus. One of the New York Times articles says, “Until the past couple of days, his news briefings were a case study in poor social distancing, with officials crammed towards the cameras.” He wasn’t bothering to protect himself from germs and like Mr. Johnson he was still out there slapping palms with the people. He was of the view that the country will get back to business by mid-April. His call to pack the churches on Easter Sunday, April 12, shows how lightly he was taking the issue.

In its early stages, the Covid-19 crisis in Italy looked nothing like a crisis. According to Harvard Business Review, in late February, some notable Italian politicians engaged in public handshaking in Milan, a city in Italy, to make the point that the economy should not panic and stop because of the virus. A week later, one of these politicians was diagnosed with Covid-19. One of the reasons of the fast spread of the virus in Italy, according to CNBC, was due to its culture. Every Sunday, young Italians go see their grandparents, they kiss them, they go to church or have meals together. This contact with elderly people has helped spread the virus across Italy. A nationwide lockdown in Italy was put in place on March 9, 2020. It was too late.

Spain has a similar family culture to Italy. The socialist-led government of Pedro Sanchez reacted late and clumsily in Spain. Spain was locked down on 14th March. A week before the lockdown, regional government of Madrid had closed universities and schools. This provoked a holiday atmosphere in which bars and parties were full and many families left for their beach homes. The poor coordination and clarity of the government to the public helped in the fast spread of the virus in Spain.

Mr. Jair Balsanaro, the president of Brazil, has railed against social distancing and called on people to go back to their regular routines. He has blamed media for fueling “hysteria”. He has continued to shake hands with people and says he has no concern for his own health despite being at the age of 65, at increased risk of complications.

Weak leadership, it turns out, is its own form of devastating pandemic.

Pakistan is also going through vague policy in this crisis situation. Mr. Imran Khan, the prime minister of Pakistan, seems confused in deciding to lockdown or not to lockdown. His concern, though rightly so, is the poor population, lack of resources, and fragile economy. But he needs to have a clear mindset of handling and controlling this crisis. It’s not late yet and it’s the mercy of God that the situation is under control till now. He has to come up with a clear policy as soon as possible because if the situation gets out of control then God knows what will happen to the people of this country.

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