The Worst is yet to Come

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Sahil Yar Muhammad;
The novel virus termed Corona and the disease it causes termed Covid-19 has affected the world at such a scale that it is not an exaggeration to say it has affected social chains of the people at the grass root level. People due to risk of infection are staying at home, governments fearing a further increase in infection cases have imposed lockdown which has ravaged the world economy leading to a recession that has easily surpassed that of the 2008 financial crisis. The curve has begun to flatten and governments such as that of Italy, the U.S and others are relaxing some restrictions to allow the economy to gasp for a breath of fresh air. The Pakistani government is also contemplating an ease in some restrictions which can see some businesses carrying out their activities although through some Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). However, it is that reduction in the alertness level of the governments which will prove most detrimental to them. The flattening of the curve or a reduction in the transmission of the virus does not mean that it has begun to disappear and a cause for celebration but it is at such a critical time that a government must not lower its guard and observe vigilance to not lose its gains. The second wave of any epidemic or pandemic is in most cases more deadly than the first, if one looks at the Spanish Flu, the Black Death, H1N1 Flu, Ebola, and SARS. The second wave of the Spanish Flu in 1918 caused significantly more deaths than the first one, the reason for the second wave being a relaxation in the restrictions. The second wave of Ebola was due to end but the death of an 11 month old girl in the Democratic Republic of Congo and a 26 year old electrician said otherwise. The H1N1 Flu which the Center for Disease control (CDC) estimates took the lives of between 151,700 and 575,400 people, had a second wave more hellish than the first. While it is not by any means guaranteed that a second wave will happen but looking back at previous pandemics, a second wave is most likely. It is the mistake of lowering their guard which will come back to haunt the governments relaxing the lockdowns in their territory. Although the reasons for the lockdown relaxations are quite understandable as it has frozen economic activity and put the livelihoods of countless people at risk so a relaxation will provide them a breath of fresh air. The devastation which is yet to come will not be a love tap but a heavy blow to the gut which will not leave a bruise or two but a gaping wound. The economy will suffer more, people will suffer even more and the government best contemplate the option of slitting its own throat if this keeps up. The relaxation from the government of Pakistan has done less to allay the fears of experts. The population of Pakistan is not as averse to danger as many other countries, perhaps because of the recent troubled times as well as the illiteracy. It is evident from the utter ignorance of the people who do not obey instructions to limit chances of transmission, going to shopping malls in such a number, it is hard to find a place to put your foot down. It is the responsibility of the citizens to obey the government but it is the responsibility of the government to create a suitable environment for its citizens. The government fails to understand that the suffering of the underprivileged sections of the population can be abated through economic packages for their households but once the people are infected, it takes a while for them to recover and they may in the most likely of cases infect others as well and with Pakistan’s health system as it is, the situation will be in simple words, ‘not good’. However, if the safety of the people is the government’s top priority as it should be then introducing further relief packages for the most vulnerable sectors of the population will do much good to them and the country in the long run. Yes, steps to provide relief to the population will affect the economy but what the government must understand is that the economy no matter how much it goes into recession can be put on track. Instead of listening to rubbish, the governments must listen to the voice of experts, it will do much good. The voice of doctors and professionals have started to go hoarse from shouting too much about the dangers of relaxing the lockdown when the curve has just started to straighten or in Pakistan’s rare case which has decided to relax the lockdown despite the corona curve steadily rising. Almost all health experts have expressed dread on what is an almost certain second wave. Dr. Ian Lipkin of the Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity says, “We’re risking a backslide that will be intolerable”. Olivier Schwartz, head of the virus unit at France’s Pasteur Institute said, “There will be a second wave, but the problem is to which extent. Is it a small wave or a big wave? It’s too early to say”, and by the time it is just right to say, it will be too late to react. Josh Michaud, the associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington said, “If we relax these measures without having the proper health safeguards in place, we can expect more cases, and unfortunately, more deaths.” The governments must listen and believe in the voices of reason from the professionals whom know what it is they are doing and not to the voices of buffoons like Donald Trump who believe the coronavirus is no more dangerous than a flu. The ultimate goal of every government must be to make sure the damage to life as well as the economy is as low as possible. Relaxing restrictions will help in the shortest term but will have devastating consequences over the rest of the terms because the health experts and other professionals mean it in the truest sense when they say, “The worst is yet to come”. –

The writer is a student of International Relations.