State institutions’ role during COVID-19

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Dr Muhammad Khan
COVID-19 has shaken the entire globe with millions of people having suffered in this deadly disease. Pakistan is also among the worst hit countries, battling this deadly pandemic from January 2020. Nevertheless, unlike Europe and America and other highly developed countries, Pakistan has been able to contain and minimize the effects of Covid-19. Timely decision for the smart lock-down and cessation of some activities brought positive results towards this control mechanism. Unfortunately, there have been lapses too which cause spread of this deadly virus, causing death of over 6000 people. Since the gradual opening of the educational institution has already started from September 15, 2020, therefore, there is an enhanced responsibility of the heads of these institutions to follow the Governmental directives and SOPs issued to avoid the chances of any further spread of Covid-19. While analysing the impacts, COVID-19 has changed the lives of millions of people world-wide with social distancing the new normal, and shelter-in-place, stay-at-home or quarantine orders in effect in multiple localities. Owing to shuttering of businesses activities the economic impact of the pandemic has been instantaneous and stark. The health system of Pakistan like other countries faced critical equipment shortages and healthcare workers remained stretched and thin. Apart from this there has been fear of unknown and a sense of insecurity at level of state and society. Indeed, there were many new and unexpected experiences in these prolonged months of Covid-19. The epidemic has not ended; rather there are all chances of its recurrence. In Pakistan, there has been an admirable role of institutions during last eight months; beginning with its initial spread.
There has been an extremely well organized role of the medical services of Pakistan throughout. As a nation we thank all of the physicians and health care professionals for their unparalleled services, they rendered towards the masses of Pakistan. Among the heroes who have emerged from this crisis are the health care professionals who risked their lives to cure the patients. The nation is indebted to them; many of those lost their lives for their patients and masses.COVID-19 is an egalitarian as it attacks everyone irrespective of economic class, political affiliation, race or religion. Pakistan has 1,279 public hospitals and 220,829 registered doctors for a population of 220 million which is quite depressing ratio. Pakistan spends only 2% of its gross domestic product on health while global average is 10%. Government must increase the health budget to meet the future heath challenges. As we move forward, we know that the pandemic continues to evolve and the health care community must continue to deliver high-quality care to all patients. Fortunately, we’ve made significant progress in our understanding of this disease, our ability to combat it, and our efforts to help patients suffering with it. We can emerge from this emergency only by working together with dedication and commitment.
The National Command Operation Centre (NCOC) of Pakistan has acted as nerve centre to synergise and articulate unified national effort against COVID-19, and to implement the decisions of National Coordination Committee on COVID-19. It is manned by a Lt General from Pak Army who is assisted by Director General. The latest situation of COVID-19, measures taken thus far and future course of action for containment efforts against COVID-19 are being continuously evaluated at NCOC. It is great information centre, Pakistan established with the onset of Covid-19. Besides, the role of Military during COVID-19 has been extra-ordinary. On the directive of Federal Government, Pakistani Military was assigned the responsibility to assist the civil administration in restricting the people’s movement for an effective clamp-down by the masses. Starting from March 25, 2020 military formations and units remained deployed till softening of the restrictions in July 2020. The military hospitals continued providing the necessary medical facilities to all civil masses besides the military personnel. Apart from assisting the civil administration, the institution of military has even distributed ration and other necessities to general masses. As per Army Chief, General Bajwa, “Nothing can defeat a responsible and determined nation. Pakistan Army being part of a national effort shall serve and protect the nation as a sacred duty.”
The business community of Pakistan has also started massive production of the personal protection equipment (PPEs); the surgical mask-N95, goggles or face shields, disposable gloves and disposable gowns. Hand sanitizers are being prepared in Pakistan in bulk. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has done an excellent job by increasing the treatment capacity of almost all major hospitals in Pakistan. NDMA has played a great role in coordinating and delivering support across the country to overcome the challenges posed by COVID-19. The district administration is acting as bridge between policy directions set by federal and provincial governments and policy implementation at gross root level by local actors. There is need that capacity of district administrations and district governments should be enhanced throughout the country to meet challenges like COVID-19. Indeed, the COVID-19pandemic has compelled countries around the world to implement immediate and long-term governance initiatives in order to reduce disease transmission and save lives. The pandemic has put a real test for global governance. Every country is placing its utmost efforts to beat this deadly virus through effective governance mechanisms. COVID- 19 exposed the different global models of governance which needs immediate attention and improvement. In view of opening the educational institutions, there is an urgent need to ensure strict compliance of laid-down procedures, SOPs and other govt directives. Any laxity by educational institutions will cause recurrence of the pandemic with more severe and deadly impact which may not be controlled by the existing medical structure of Pakistan. Let’s convert these challenges posed by Covid-19 into opportunities through a very strict self-control and demonstrating control over institutions, organizations and entrepreneurs, we are responsible for.
— The writer is Professor of Politics and IR at International Islamic University, Islamabad.

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