Lately, the pandemic of the coronavirus has engulfed Pakistan in its icy grips – refusing to lose its hold on the masses. The disease has brought drastic upheavals in our social constructs and may affect us economically as well.
And this is what Prime Minister Imran Khan pointed out last night in his address to the nation. Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “Government has been doing everything that is necessary, we will look after our people who fall prey to this virus and we will look after those also who are serving the nation as doctors, paramedics, nursing staff etc. by providing them all the necessary equipment, but we have to fight this battle together.”
He added, “When we met and sat down to form a strategy, we studied all other countries and their response towards handling this. Italy has gone towards a complete shut down while UK’s strategy is different.
— Times of lsIamabad (@TimesofIslambad) March 17, 2020
We also considered shutting down everything but we have to remember Pakistan is already a poor country and if we try to save people from corona by shutting the country down many may die because of being unable to win a bread for their families, specially the daily wagers and laborers.”
The ‘corona virus hysteria’ now has become somewhat of a plight for the country and while the governments (Federal and Provincial) have been criticized for their lackluster governance, in the face of this adversity, they have been steadfast and the conviction has been applauding – bravely digging their heels in an effort to thwart the disease right in its dreadful tracks.
The federal government vis-à-vis with all the provincial governments have formed a stalwart fort against the disease. Though Baluchistan government and the decision for allowing the Zaireen from the Taftan into Pakistan is something everyone is trying to understand and criticizing but then what option did we have?
Efforts of the Federal Government
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza, tweeted on the 22nd of January that precautionary measures have been taken including strengthening of the systems for surveillance for flights.
164/ Fed MoH has established a Emergency Operations Room for preparedness and response to #coronavirus situation emerging from China. System for surveillance for flights directly or indirectly coming to 🇵🇰 has been strengthened along with other measures.
— Zafar Mirza (@zfrmrza) January 22, 2020
This is when the government had begun taking measures even before the sudden outbreak of the disease in Pakistan.
Right after two days, on 24th Jan 2020, Dr Zafar Mirza was invited to my show and there he explained all that government was doing to keep corona virus from spreading in Pakistan.
Link to that programme (https://youtu.be/bvI9Bcgb11o).
Even Senator Sherry Rehman from Pakistan People’s Party in her tweet on the 14th of March stated that, “Pakistan’s airports were far more disease-alert at this point than London Heathrow”.
Have great respect for the UK’s public health system, but having just returned from UK,feel like Pakistan’s airports were far more disease-alert at this point than Heathrow. Even at Isl passengers were sent back to fill health forms and properly scanned. Karachi way more vigilant https://t.co/K3iUeJdAUr
— SenatorSherryRehman (@sherryrehman) March 14, 2020
In February when I had to travel abroad as well as domestically to Karachi, I witnessed the staff to be very vigilant and attentive that was performing its duties on Islamabad and Karachi airports screening the travelers.
This speaks volumes of how our government within their capacity is trying their level best to stop the exponential outburst of this disease.
Therefore, this is no coincidence that Pakistan was one of the very last countries to be infected.
How are provinces fighting with Corona?
Steps taken in Punjab
As I am writing this, the nation-wide tally raises to 237. The Punjab government has made a valiant effort. The government has three main facilities specifically designed for accommodating corona virus patients at Lahore, Rawalpindi and Muzaffargarh encompassing 800 additional beds in each facility.
Moreover, the government has not only began the task of identification of focal persons for high dependency units (HDU) in many facilities and hospitals but also taken strict and proper maneuvers for installing protective point of entries for stopping the disease from further spreading in highly sensitive areas.
Simulation exercises are being carried out at the airports, trainings of health staff are being carried out in Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Sialkot, Lahore and Multan. Zaireen from Iran and more than 3000 Chinese in 61 settlements have been screened.
Steps taken in Sindh
Moving on to Sindh we can be awe-struck as to how much work the Sindh government has done to help tackle this dreadful epidemic. Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah, announced the closure of all educational institutes in Sindh until 30 March, which was later extended until 30 May, 2020.
Sindh’s Information Minister, Nasir Hussain Shah has stated that, “Specific wards have been made for quarantine purposes and quarantine centers have been set up in cities such as Sukkur.”
He had further also added that the Sindh government is also working in unison with the Federal government to bring patients to Karachi airport where they can safely be kept in quarantine.
We are considering shutting down government offices and all the employees above 50 years of age will be sent on 15 days leave, the prisoners’ sentences also would be reduced to two months
The Sindh Government imposed a temporary ban on marriage halls, gatherings in lawns, banquets, hotels and shuts down the shopping malls for 15 days.
Public parks and Karachi Sea View will also remain closed for the next two weeks. This has helped the Sindh government in forming a fortified defense against the virus.
Chief Minister Sindh, Syed Murad Ali Shah has emerged as a leader. He also announced rations would be provided to the families of those in quarantine.
Steps taken in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa also announced to close all educational institutes till May 15th, 2020 and postponed all festivals and events until further notice as a preventive measure as there are 27 corona virus cases in the province.
Screening at the Torkham border has always been started and necessary equipment have been provided to all major hospitals.
Chief Minister KP, Mahmood Khan has directed his government to distribute ration packages for the families of patients in quarantine.
The package will include 20 kilograms worth of flour, 10 kilos each of rice and sugar, a carton of one-liter milk, five kilos of pulses, and five boxes of tea.
The advisor to KP’s CM, Ajmal Wazir Khan stated that even, “We are considering shutting down government offices and all the employees above 50 years of age will be sent on 15 days leave, the prisoners’ sentences also would be reduced to two months.”
He further added that a state of emergency has also been initiated in hospitals all over the province with 1200 additional isolation beds added to most major hospitals with almost Rs. 500 million being allocated in the province to stop the spread of the disease.
Ajmal Wazir Khan told the media that quarantine facilities for the pilgrims arriving from the border would be kept in Gomal Medical College, Dera Ismail Khan.
Steps taken in Baluchistan
Meanwhile the government of Baluchistan has started taking steps to prevent the spread of this virus as the provincial government constituted a 14-member technical committee. Spokesperson of the Baluchistan government, Liaqat Shahwani stated that “Emergency was imposed throughout the Baluchistan bordering Iran, with 10000 masks dispatched at the border as well.”
All the provincial and federal governments have been providing what they can best given our country’s downtrodden healthcare system and a weak economic condition
Furthermore, he added that screening at borders have also started. He also went on to state that almost, “6 isolation beds have been added in each district hospital all over Baluchistan, with 30 more beds to be added in the second phase of this initiative.” This will help the government to properly contain the virus in check.
In the two major hospitals in Quetta, isolation ward accommodating 120 people has also been set up with a quarantine center accommodating 1000 patients.
What to do?
Coronavirus can be effectively defeated by the use of face masks. Those who are infected need to wear mask and they must so that when they sneeze or cough the droplets coming out of their mouth do not reach the next person.
I repeat those who are not infected do not need to wear masks, they just need to distance themselves, wash hands as frequently as possible and try to touch your mouth, nose or eyes as less as possible.
If someone believes he is infected and has coronavirus, he should try to consult a doctor via phone first and instead of going to the hospital he should call the state helpline 1166 if you feel shortness of breath, fever, cough etc.
If you have quarantined yourself due to any symptoms and you need grocery then you can either order online or ask you friends or relatives to buy them and bring them to you but don’t meet them, tell them to place the bags on your doorstep and you can pick them up once they are gone because not all the corona virus patients need to go and get admitted in the hospital.
We should realize a fact that it is not the time for treating this dire lockdown as a means of carrying out picnics and dinner parties. It’s a time when we should try to self-quarantine ourselves from this dangerous disease.
A little positivity & Patience
And stop being pessimistic all the time. All the provincial and federal governments have been providing what they can best given our country’s downtrodden healthcare system and a weak economic condition.
We are no China and we need to understand we cannot build a 1000 bed hospital in a week but what we can do is that support the government, support each other and most of all ‘Educate’ each other.
In the last few days we have heard that a few people have escaped the quarantine facilities of government in Punjab – such people need to be arrested and be punished for this negligence that is putting the lives of others in danger and at tremendous risk.
CORONA is preventable and curable we just must look after ourselves and others and act responsibly!
Shiffa Yousafzai is a TV presenter & producer with Hum News. She is an International Alumni Ambassador for Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, where she studied Multimedia Journalism. Earlier, she graduated with business and marketing at Air University, Islamabad. Shiffa could be followed on twitter @Shiffa_ZY and on Facebook @ShiffaYousafzai. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.