By Ali Azhar
At least one thing is obvious for now. The Covid-19 pandemic has left the world with worse economic and public health ramifications. It also left the human efforts exposed to some of the grave inefficiencies that the world has ever witnessed. Most of the world acted too late. Those who acted early than others were unaware of the threats that the virus could pose to the masses. While in Pakistan the battle against the onslaught of the deadly virus started with mix strategies rather than a uniformed one. Due to lack of proper and early vetting of the situation, healthcare facilities in the country are already overwhelmed. The basic medical facilities needed to contain the virus appear to be insufficient and are near the verge of an eventual collapse. News have emerged that the government is planing to reduce the testing capacity for some unknown reasons. The government’s decision to reduce the testing capacity will apparently relieve this onus for some short time. But reducing the testing capacity at a time when the country is hit hard by the virus is not a viable option and whereas the country is yet to enter the peak phase of infection. The medical authorities should have raised their eye browns over the unlikely step taken by the government. It reflects the fact that we do not report the exact and accurate number of new emerging Covid-19 cases in the country every single day. This situation must not be felt as satisfactory. We should not perceive at this point that it is an all win-win strategy and we are able to contain the virus. The truth may however, remain elusive.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, the global causalities are alarming. Not a single country even in the global west is concomitantly claimed to defy the soaring death tolls. Economies have witnessed the worst recession in history. In case of Pakistan, the officially posted Covid-19 related death figures are getting exceedingly uncertain and there are uncounted Covid-19 deaths coming to limelight from different parts of the country. This disturbing spike in uncounted Covid-19 fatalities will continue to addle the official figures.
There are some other galling news emerging in various circles that patients with pre-existing complications are facing untold sufferings. A series of recent reports suggest that large number of these patients are loath to visit hospitals to seek medical care. Hundreds of thousands of checkups and appointments are reported to have been either delayed or postponed referring the Covid-19 pandemic the sole pretext for these holdups. This precarious situation uncovers the colossal amount of risk that is involved in delaying the essential care to these vulnerable patients. If the delays are not addressed timely, it is more likely that this would only tend to make the fragile situation even worse. And the ground realities argue that we are not in a position to be deeply divided over the provision of basic healthcare facilities.
According to a recent estimate around 80 percent of patients in the country with varying health issues ranging from mild symptoms of fever to typhoid and heart attacks to cancer do not go to hospitals driven by the fears of uncertainty. Their experiences are hardly imaginable. We are uncertain what ramifications these delays would bring in for the families of these patients. We do not know for how long cancer patients are undiagnosed and patients of heart attacks are untreated or given new dates and likewise. It is not the only case in big cities, the stories of people in rural areas coming to hospitals with various health complains are equally alarming. These poor people have worth-telling conversations. The fact is that this trend will continue to lead us towards an uncertain period and the people with minor or major health complain will continue to suffer longer than they require to.
The pandemic is still there and it is not going to leave us soon. The government is often seen touting about it publicly. It will continue to challenge our already dilapidated health system through its forceful clout. Besides, the widening cracks in our economy are already palpable. But what is also sliding away is the hope that the people of this country are attaching with the incumbent government. It is perhaps the highest time in the history of the country to address these surging challenges on priority basis before it is too late to sit aside and rue our own policies.
It does merit attention of the authorities to mention that even some of the world’s sophisticated healthcare systems have been kneed down and overburdened with Covid-19 patients. But that scenario does not essentially provide any rationale for depriving these desperate people of their basics medical care and livelihood. There is huge pile of risk associated with these delays and millions of people live under a constant fear of being pushed into further marginalisation in their own county. This is the time to remind them that their health and livelihoods are equally protected as of others. They need to be paid heed now more than ever. The rest of it all lies in the wisdom of our leadership.