In pandemics science, not politics, should guide decisions
Several government leaders, the latest being Information Minister Shibli Faraz, have claimed that the coronavirus is on the decline in Pakistan. The conclusion is reportedly based on four parameters: the number of daily positive cases, of hospitalized patients, of those on ventilators and of deaths. The government maintains that all the four parameters have been showing positive signs which indicates that the pandemic cases are decreasing.
The media campaign has led many to observe the SOPs though there are still people who defy wearing masks. The government’s critics maintain that the figures of positive cases have gone down due to a reduction in tests. Even if the stand taken by the administration is accepted, so many government leaders announcing victory to gain political advantage can only make people careless and stop taking precautionary measures, thus reversing the slight improvement in the situation. The government would do well not to lower its guard.
The government must not forget the warning by the WHO of the possibility of a second wave of the pandemic issued after a cluster of cases appeared in Beijing suddenly after there being no new case for 50 days. It is widely realised that Pakistan can ill afford a second wave. Being extra careful might irk some but it is wiser to err on the side of caution. As the Punjab Health Minister has observed, any failure to take preventive measures in cattle markets around Eidul Azha can take the coronavirus to the villages. This could be calamitous as health facilities in Tehsil HQ hospitals are simply inadequate to deal with a pandemic-like situation.
While the coronavirus has done incalculable damage to the country, it provides an opportunity to improve and expand the health infrastructure, provide many more beds and reduce the existing doctor-patient ratio. The government has managed to set up 128 testing laboratories across the country which is still a very small number. About 5000 health workers are to be trained by Chinese experts, of whom 1000 are reportedly ready to perform duties in critical care management wards. With about 240,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, about 5,000 dead within four months and the virus still infecting people, the situation should convince the government to allocate much larger funds to the health sector.