Countering a terrible nightmare — COVID-19 | By Sheikh Fakhar-e-Alam

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Countering a terrible nightmare — COVID-19


GLOBAL pandemic Covid-19 has affected around 150 million people worldwide and took lives of above 3 million people in its shocking three waves.

India our neighbouring country has recorded the highest one-day tally of Covid-19 cases (401,993) worldwide.

Indian hospitals across the country are turning away patients after running out of medical oxygen and beds.

India’s national health system has bowed down to the rising cases as thousands of patients have been left to die on roads.

This virus is the worst shape and form of any disease affecting the major chunk of the global population ever in the history.

This pandemic is brutal, cruel, drastic, exorbitant, extreme, oppressive, rough, severe and strict.

The outbreak of COVID-19 has severely affected the world. Small and medium-sized enterprises are the main victim of the disease outbreak. It has affected our lives, our economy in almost every corner of the world.

There are now clear cautions of a worldwide economic recession as workers continue to fall sick, factories, educational institutions and business organizations remain closed and healthcare structures become overcrowded.

In Pakistan, during the first wave, the registered patients reached 1,000 on 22 April 2020, the wave reached its peak on day 53 and infected 5,884 patients that day.

The second wave started on 03 October 2020 and reached its peak 65 days later, when the number of registered patients was 3,262.

The third wave started on February 22, 2021, and there is still no sign of a peak after passing above 70 days, the highest death toll in one day and maximum number of infected patients raised to 201 and 6127 respectively. The growth of the third wave is much more noticeable than the previous two waves.

According to Pakistan’s government official information, the positive rate has increased tremendously in the last few weeks, it was 3.3% by the end of February, 2021 and recently hit a new high 11.62%. In the third wave, the number of patients in ICU have exceeded the number of patients at the peak of the first wave.

Ironically, the intensity of the government and people’s response did not match the severity of the third wave.

The government regrets the people’s apparent violation of the SOP’s, but it is unwilling to take drastic actions like complete lockdown to change people’s behaviour as it did in the first wave.

The citizens are generally indifferent to the pandemic. People criticize the slow pace of government’s procurement of vaccines and lagging behind regional countries in vaccinating citizens but government opines that during early stages of vaccine development, developed countries received large contracts from all pharmaceutical companies and Pakistan can’t afford that, so it’s in a queue.

With the shocking third wave and the steady supply of sufficient vaccines to die down the spread of infection, concerns about the possibility of a pandemic during Ramadan have exacerbated. Increasing the supply of vaccines after Eid will speed up the vaccination process.

Even with fewer resources, the government of Pakistan has taken unprecedented steps to counter the effects of COVID-19 crisis such as procurement of vaccines, dedicated hospitals, testing laboratories, closing of markets and schools, quarantine facilities, awareness campaigns and selective lockdowns to control the spread of the virus.

After vaccinating people above 60, government took a very good and remarkable move to start walk-in vaccination facility for the age group of 50 to 59 from 21 April, 2021.

Covid-19 vaccine registration for those aged 40 or above also commenced from April 27,2021.

Government has also unveiled a multi-billion rupees’ economic package to provide relief to citizens, particularly low-income groups whose livelihood has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Testing, tracking and lockdowns must be concentrated on areas where clusters of Covid patients are detected.

The healthcare professionals must be given maximum protection before this pandemic could cause disorder in terms of mortalities.

The first key task of the government is to strengthen healthcare structure of the country which was overwhelmed during the Covid pandemic.

Apart from enhancing the number of hospital infrastructure, upgradation of the prevailing ones is badly required.

Public healthcare thus must be the priority in the budget 2021-22. Pakistan should use this pandemic to review its targets and get some monetary pad from the IMF.

Multilateral lenders have setup an extraordinary fund to deal with Covid-19. We should also approach the Fund to contain the transmission of this virus in Pakistan.

Presently, all available resources are being utilized to combat the coronavirus outbreak in Pakistan. The current situation in Pakistan is not very good because Pakistan is a densely populated country and needs more assistance.

In terms of responding on financial terms during the COVID-19 pandemic, people have to understand that Pakistan’s economy is not better than China, Russia, the US and UK.

The implementation of quarantine facilities needs further improvement. There is also a need to enhance the current testing facilities.

Ultimately, it has become necessary to take strict measures like moving towards complete lockdown in order to control the worsening situation. Even in this tough hour, Pakistan has shown great gesture towards India.

PM Imran Khan has personally expressed his solidarity with India and offered to provide relief support.

Edhi Foundation also extended help to Indian PM Narendra Modi in the form of a fleet of 50 ambulances along with its staff.

—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Islamabad.