Coronavirus: An Insidious threat for Pakistan


Dr. Mohammad Tamoor Azam;

By lock downing Wuhan on 22nd January, the Chinese authorities sent a loud message to the world that this mysterious pathogen will prove itself not less than a hydrogen bomb which could devastate every nook and corner of the world. But the negligent governments looked to it as a concomitant disease that we face on regular basis. On October 2019, The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation jointly exercised a simulation in New York city that such an outbreak of an epidemic could kill 6.5 million people and world would face large-scale of catastrophic economic and societal consequences. They illustrated for cooperation among governments, world community, international institutions, NGO’s, civil societies to avoid the consequences of epidemic to become pandemic. Indeed, they were right, new coronavirus showed up erratically by infecting 3,915,081 killing 270,660 people worldwide to this day, and it is still aggravating. India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka have the densest population combining a total of around 1.7 billion people showing poor performance in battling against the poverty. On April 2020, World Bank has published a report that South Asia could be the next epicenter of the new coronavirus; although, relatively less cases have been reported so far as compared to Europe and United States. Following in the footsteps of international community, Pakistani government too has shown lack of interest towards the impending threat of virus in the beginning which was spreading rapidly in neighboring countries of China and Iran. Pakistan’s territory is small as compared to its neighbors with handful of international entrances like it has 4 international airports that are in operation and around 4 to 5 major border crossings in Afghanistan and 3 main border crossings in Iran, 1 border crossing with China and around 2 to 3 with India except Control of Line (CoL) in Kashmir side, so Pakistan had an considerable advantage from the beginning to close all border expect 1 border from each neighbors and install screening machines in them to examine the travelers coming from China and Iran but no such attempts made to protect the country, now the whole nation is suffering the repercussions of blatant ignorance. On 26 February, Pakistan confirmed its first two cases of the coronavirus. Both patients had travelled to Iran. Four Pakistani students in China had tested positive for the coronavirus on January 29, and on February 12, all four Pakistani students who had tested positive for the coronavirus in China had recovered from the illness and had been discharged from hospital. The current situation exhibits that when government realized the severity of virus, it had already penetrated and dreadfully devastated the country insidiously. The government had imposed strict measurements by prolonged lockdown closing schools, offices and banning public gatherings of all kinds but all in vain. On April 22, doctors in Karachi had a press conference, where they projected the proliferation of coronavirus which is frightening, now reports shows that there are around 700 medical staff have been infected in whole Pakistan.

The Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) angered noted that “politicians and bureaucrats are often seen wearing N-95 masks during visits and meetings while health professionals are facing a dire shortage of (these masks) and PPE (personal protective equipment)”. On ground, situation in the country is very dismal. Virus is mushrooming like a fire in the jungle. Testing is the only window onto the pandemic, and how it is spreading. Tests enable the isolation of those infected and the tracing and quarantining of their contacts but there are very less tests per day, those who are tested 1 out of 5 are positive. The alarming aspect is that if a person is diagnosed positive after tests in hospital he will be admitted shortly in hospital but there is no tracing and investigation of his contacts and people are deprived of second kind of tests which aims at establishing whether an individual had been infected in some point in the past. That is why there is prevailing fear in every city and village that the quantity is soaring up with unprecedented speed. If this continuation remains constant, then there will be catastrophic situation like US, Italy, Spain, France and UK. There are four provinces and two federally administered regions (GB & Kashmir), all parts have different way of tackling and facing the virus, there is no cooperation among each other. xperts claim that the coronavirus cases in Pakistan are steadily increasing, yet the authorities and the common people seem to be taking the issue very lightly. It seems that there is no fear of death in common people. Religious clerics are stubborn in opening of mosques and small traders demand opening of markets which is lethal for the people and would face dire consequences. Is this attitude of people towards the virus justified because Pakistan was in the state of war in past two decades due to US presence in Afghanistan and people were accustomed in hearing the news of daily bomb blasts killing hundreds of people in different parts of Pakistan and in line of control in Kashmir region which is a small battlefield between India and Pakistan killing people and security forces is a daily routine? The Prime Minister of Pakistan is an incorruptible and a sincere person, but his team and cabinet are incompetent which will eventually sink the country in the dark abyss of chaos.

Pakistan’s weak economy was getting better and progressing day by day due to CPEC investment but unfortunately the virus has stymied or even sabotaged the CPEC project which is also a big concern. Each passing day is a doomsday for the nation because Pakistan has poor medical system with competent medical staff, corrupt bureaucracy with literate bureaucrats, inefficient politicians with rich family backgrounds, dishonest judges with sacred book of rules and principles, big media houses with sometimes questions on their veracity, and future might unfortunately be awaiting more deaths, pains, poverty, anxiety, unemployment, crimes, corruptions and shortage of food. The fawning virus is a different challenge from all difficulties because asymptomatic patients are zombies in disguise; they can not only infect the person rather they infect the whole family, neighbors and friend circle which are still to be known to Pakistani people. With hindsight, Government’s decision to lift the lockdown is another big concern. The conclusion is uncertain: the killing spree of the virus will may continue in Pakistan to unprecedented levels.

The writer is a Research Analyst at Kunming University of Science & Technology China. He can reached at Email: [email protected]