Controlling the narrative
PTI (Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf) is once again on a slippery slope as far as controlling the narrative about the coronavirus goes. Since the prime minister chose the way of targeted lockdowns and this is a very sensitive phase of the fight against the coronavirus, the need for a very clear code of conduct for everybody as well as complete transparency about how things are proceeding cannot possibly be stressed enough. Yet conflicting reports in the press are confusing people all over again. And surely the government should not need any reminding that people of Pakistan need only the slightest excuse, not even that oftentimes, to go out and about as if nothing had happened.
First, just a few days ago, the press quoted a government official saying that the targeted lockdown strategy had led to a very high — perhaps 98 percent — reduction in the spread of the virus. But since it had only been two days since the policy had been implemented, and any trend of new cases required at least a fortnight to emerge and be identified, this was clearly a case of going too far. Yet it lit up social media as PTI supporters cheered on. Not much later there emerged news that the virus was indeed spreading at a slower rate than before, which was very welcome indeed, and that there was now also more spare capacity in hospitals. But then on Tuesday doctors in Lahore were saying that most public hospitals had run out of space and only the bigger ones, like Mayo, Jinnah and Services hospitals, had enough left for a few more days. They also said that new patients were arriving often in very critical condition.
This is just the kind of messaging that needs to be avoided right now. No doubt some people would have taken heart from the good news that came first, regardless of how true or not it was, and done their bit in spreading the deadly virus that much further. It is, of course, appreciated that the government’s policies are controlling the spread, if that part is indeed true, yet all that stands to be undone very quickly if it cannot control just what kind of information is reaching the people. Surely the government would have the latest numbers at its fingertips, therefore it should immediately share all relevant information with the people. It should also say again, and keep saying, that the end of the fight is so far nowhere in sight, and everybody will have to follow all the rules so long as it goes on.
Some soul-searching can be a good thing