Grapplingwith the deadly virus

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ZAHEER BHATTI

CORONAVirus which surfaced in December 2019 was declared pandemic within days having gripped the world due to its uniqueness, confusing symptoms, means of detection limited, no medicinal cure, and precaution the only remedy besides beseeching Providence for mercy and forgiveness for man’s neglect in conforming to divine edicts conveyed to him through God’s chosen Messengers; no wonder its non-believing creation has also been forced to seek His mercies in this moment of nature’s warning to mankind. Ever since first news of the outbreak reported fromWuhan City of China’s Hubei Province, the world has been seized of the menace trying to determine the origin and cause of the mysterious virus in order to find an antidote to contain and kill the menace. Unfortunately, the global community has become so myopic and polarized, that unlike at the time of the first signs of plague, leprosy, tuberculosis, malaria, flu, dengue and cancer etc, President of the mightiest and most affluent nation in present times, after blaming climate change and trade wars on China, found it fit to brand it as the ‘Chinese Virus’ only to be matched by a swift Chinese retort in suggesting that the US Army was the actual source and carrier of the virus. Resulting in a brief spell of racial slur and abuse as reported by the Asian-Americans community, gravity of the challenge overtookthe xenophobia and has forced nearly 200 countries of the world to grapple with the outbreak fastengulfing the entire universe. China, a nation of over 1.38 billion people led from the front and had the distinction of arresting, managing and clearing its 11 million strong Wuhan City of the Corona Virus, while containing its wild spreadin rest ofthe country andlimitingits casualties compared to even developed countries much smaller in terms of population such as Italy, Spain US, Britain, France and Germany etc. This was made possible through enforcement of a strict ‘do or die’ resolve and unflinching support of its population which instantly recognized the gravity of the situation, unlike Italy and Spain in particular which initially took it casually resulting in deaths far outnumbering those in People’s Republic of China as a whole. Sadly Pakistan which of late has been bereft with internal bickering, personal vendetta and blame game, rather than get into an instant huddle to grapple with the menace, is still discordant almost three months since sounding of the warning bells eventhough some visible steps have been belatedly taken to contain and hopefully curb the curse, such as instantly closing down most places amenable to crowds and gatherings ie, track and field sports and concerts, educational institutions, shopping malls, wedding receptions, visit to shrines and periodical bazaars besides air traffic as well aslocal andinter-city publictransport.Covid19 spread in Pakistan not because of alleged ignorance of the religious segment alone but indecision of the Government over prayer congregation in mosques; the largest avenue of regular people’s gatherings as a matter of faith. Despite restrictions imposed in the Holy Mosques in Makkah andMadina and a religious decree fromAl-Azhar, Pakistan is still discordant while enforcing the restrictions in Sindh but merely limiting it vaguely in the rest of the country; so much for Government clarity and religious harmony in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Announcing a relief package for the affected and the population segment below poverty line, slashing gasoline prices to bring down prices, curtailing interest rates besides raising quarantine facilities in major towns, equipping and segregating hospitals with masks, ventilators and protective gears for doctors, nurses and paramedics assigned to tackle patients, and raising a Youth Volunteer Force to reach provisions to the deserving etc, are not enough. The Prime Minister is seen taking people of the country into confidence on a day to day basis, but remains stubbornly self-possessed in refusing to interact with the opposition; leaving the teleconference without eliciting their views and yet again failing to recognize that he needs to have the entire Opposition on board at this critical juncture, as it happens to comprise half the people’s representation in the country. The Opposition is also doing no better in continuing to castigate the Government instead of volunteering some sane inputs to tackle the situation. Clearly some honest miscalculations were made by the Government in the case of the Taftan influx of devotees; the main source of the virus into the country which it was unable to handle by timely screening and isolating Corona-affected persons for want of facilities at the parched border post. Surely, if it could be eventually managed with the help of the Army, the same was possible from the moment Pakistan received initial news of the virus which took several weeks before the first affected case surfaced in Pakistan. Media-blared precaution for the common man advising every individual to remain indoors for a fortnight to rule out infection leave a lot more to be desired in a society which invites disaster due to ill-education and ignorance and is not amenable to discipline unless forced upon. Understandably, no country in the world howsoever affluent has the logistics to screen each individual and must therefore rely heavily upon self-imposed isolation which can only be achieved with total public awareness and cooperation. Even though one understands the PM’s concern that lack of logistics and resources to reach rations to the have-nots restrained him from imposing countrywide curfew, the absence of Local Bodies is being direly felt which would have had every needy on their finger tips and effectively served the grass roots. But what has also been glaringly a miss from day-one is tapping the Pakistani community known the world over for its philanthropy by announcing a Prime Minister’s Corona Relief Fund which by now would have generated heaps of money from the elite down the ladder to augment constrained national financial resources, besides the likes of Eidhi and Sailani who are already at work voluntarily. —The writer is a media professional, member of Pioneering team of PTV and a veteran ex Director Programmes.

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