Joint policies against Corona


AS serious differences continue to persist between the Centre and the provinces over handling of the situation arising out of outbreak of Coronavirus, the Supreme Court, on Monday, directed the federal and provincial governments to devise a joint policy to tackle the ongoing Coronavirus crisis in the country and submit a report on it within a week. Hearing a suo motu case, it also expressed dissatisfaction over reports submitted by the Federal Government and lack of coordination among Centre and provinces.
Similar instructions were also given by the apex court before but so far no tangible progress is visible towards formulation of a unified policy and instead the Federal and the Sindh Governments frequently lock their horns openly trading allegations relating to different aspects of the situation. No doubt, the court oversight and questioning is contributing towards crystallization of the relevant issues but urgency of the situation demands the court ought to issue clear guidelines to safeguard interests of the people. The latest instructions of the Supreme Court came as Prime Minister Imran Khan once again maintained that the lockdown imposed in the wake of Coronavirus outbreak affected a large population including workers, daily wagers and labourers and therefore, they have decided to lift the restrictions gradually. Of course, many countries of the world too are gradually returning to normalcy but we overlook the fact that they were doing so after passing through the peak of the crisis whereas we are in the midst of it and can hardly afford a rush towards routine life. Though the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers emphasize that decisions regarding resumption of activities by some sectors, businesses and offices are being taken after finalization of the SOPs but the real issue is their practical implementation. Already, majority of mosques were violating the agreement with regard to safety measures and social distancing and what people witnessed outside offices of NADRA on Monday, which resumed their operations, hardly inspires confidence about voluntary observation of SOPs. NADRA is earning handsomely from people but it did not care to devise proper procedure and people formed beelines outside its offices. We have also been hearing about elaborate arrangements made at the quarantine centres but details provided to the Supreme Court were pathetic as four persons were kept in one room and that too without electricity at the Haji Camp quarantine centre in the Federal Capital. It is because of sorry state of affairs at such centres and even in hospitals that people are hesitant to report cases for fear they too will have to embrace miseries there.
The affected people prefer staying at home but this too has implications and consequences as we saw in the case of Dr. Furqan in Karachi who was denied a bed in three hospitals of the provincial capital when his condition deteriorated and ultimately he died at home. We claim to have spare ventilators at the moment but he was unlucky to get one and the incident calls for a thorough probe including attitude of some private hospitals that mint money but are unwilling to save lives at this critical juncture. The government had registered people for Corona Relief Tiger Force but it is not functional as yet raising questions as to what would be its utility if it comes into action after the situation normalizes. Its stated objectives were provision of relief and creation of awareness among masses about adoption of safety measures. Now that the authorities are allowing businesses and industries to resume their operations, the volunteers should be in the field to ensure implementation of SOPs, otherwise there could be an intensified wave of infections throughout the country. The additional responsibility given to them by the Prime Minister on Monday i.e. to keep a watch on hoarders and profiteers might distort the original character of the force and make it controversial and therefore, tigers should only be assigned the task of relief and awareness. Other issues pointed out by the apex court should also be seriously considered like over-emphasis on procurements and purchases relating to the prevailing situation and the call for greater transparency in the backdrop of a report by the Auditor-General of Pakistan that spoke of irregularities to the tune of Rs. 3.1 billion in Pakistan Baitul Mal and Rs 574 million Zakat during the last audit year 2019-20.