Coronavirus pandemic also named COVID-19 which is, rapidly, spreading across the world has killed more than 22,000 persons and infected over 510,000 individuals despite lockdowns in many countries, especially Western states.
Besides other restrictions, taking precautionary measures, airport screening of passengers is being done not only at airports but also at other transport places like railway stations, bus stations, etc. To further prevent the coronavirus outbreak, many countries’ authorities have stepped out screening of passengers arriving from coronavirus sensitive countries. And some countries have closed borders with the neighbouring countries.
Different countries have adopted testing of the persons, suspected by the indications of the coronavirus.
As regards Pakistan, up to March 27, this year, the number of coronavirus-deaths in the country has reached the figure of nine, whereas the number of persons, affected by the virus is 1,128.
Pakistan has also taken measures, especially of China who has succeeded in controlling COVID-19. In this respect, the Government of Pakistan has also closed down schools, colleges and banned marriage ceremonies, etc. A ban was also imposed on sit-ins and processions, rallies at public places, sports gathering and cinemas.
As most of the Pakistanis were not taking preventive measures to save their lives from the coronavirus pandemic in accordance with the instructions of the medical experts and the health department, the central and provincial governments were compelled to impose restrictions of various kinds-complete or partial lockdown to stop further outbreak of this fatal disease.
But, most of the citizens were violating the restrictions. Hence, the number of coronavirus cases is increasing day by day in the country. The military, paramilitary soldiers and police have also placed barricades on various points to stop the unnecessary movements of the people. Security forces have also arrested many people who were found violating Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, including those who were selling sanitizers and masks at exorbitant rates in addition to indulgence in hoarding.
Nevertheless, to stop the further spread of coronavirus pandemic, people need to act upon the famous maximum-“prevention is better than cure.” For the purpose, they need self-quarantine or isolation.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “Self-isolating is for people who have already been infected with the virus. Self-quarantining is for those who may be ill and need to keep themselves separate from others on the chance they become sick over the incubation period.”
In this connection, addressing the nation on March 22, 2020, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan once again urged the nation to keep calm and not panic as the country battles the coronavirus outbreak. He said: “Pakistan cannot afford to impose a total lockdown. 25% of the people in the country live below the poverty line…if the situation in the country had escalated…he would have thought about imposing a lockdown…the virus could be curbed if people stopped attending gatherings and weddings and started staying at home to ensure the minimum spread of the virus…Like China, Pakistan could come out of this pandemic if the public was disciplined and practised self-isolation.”[And self-quarantine].
Earlier, addressing the nation, PM Imran Khan said: “We as a nation need to win this war against coronavirus” and asked the people “to adopt precautionary measures to overcome the highly contagious disease…everyone must avoid gatherings of more than 40 people. Handshaking must also be avoided…those arriving from abroad to go in a 14-day self-quarantine…The virus is dangerous for old people since it attacked their already-weakened immune system…Our economic situation is very fragile…If we close down the country, what will happen to the poor? People will die of hunger…the country’s Ulema said that it was their responsibility to play a positive role in the crisis.”
It is notable that the Government of Pakistan has arranged an economic package for daily wagers (primarily labourers) in order to help them in these dire situations. Pakistan is a huge charity giving country and just like the government, privileged citizens should also contribute to providing financial support to labourers/daily wage workers. State Bank of Pakistan has decreased interest rate, while the government has reduced petroleum price by 15 Rs. and made a 20 Billion plus package for daily wagers.
At this crucial hour, the media should advise the people positively, as people are not cooperating with authorities, while as many of the people currently on roads are daily wagers (mechanics, labourers, sanitary workers, etc.), and without them, the country would not function properly. This also explains the sad state of affairs of a capitalist system. Anyhow, it is the duty of everyone to provide relief to such people and protect them from the spread of the virus. The economic package will at least help daily wagers to stay indoors and provide food for their families. But, the government should give indications of an imminent lockdown. PM Imran should rise to the occasion and prepare the people for upcoming tough measures.
Even when states have closed each others’ borders for containing the spread of this pandemic, Islamabad has, again and again, requested the international community to lift economic sanctions from Iran so that important medical supplies/food items can be provided to the authorities.
In this connection, Premier Imran stated that due to lack of health facilities, citizens of countries affected by war and sanctions would storm borders. Owing to the rapid pace of the spread of the virus, it is important that the international community should help developing economies in these tough times. Otherwise, a tsunami of refugees might be knocking at the doors of many countries.
Meanwhile, it is an excellent decision that in a joint statement on March 26, 2020, World Bank and IMF urged official bilateral creditors to provide immediate debt relief to the world’s poorest countries as they grapple with severe consequences of the rapidly spreading coronavirus.
It is mentionable that addressing a press conference on March 23, 2020, DG of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar said: “Coronavirus is a danger that we have never seen in our lifetimes, but the Pakistan Army is fully aware of its duty and would counter the pandemic with the nation’s help…wished to appraise the country’s citizens of the military’s efforts in the war against COVID-19…The borders had been closed as a preventive measure but the actual border is between the man and the coronavirus, which we have yet to take control of…This will only be possible through self-discipline and cooperation. The best defense against the coronavirus is cooperation…Pakistan was facing a serious challenge and that only with the people’s belief in the state could this problem be resolved…in a special corps commanders conference to deal with coronavirus, Pakistan Army’s aid to civil institutions and its plan of action was reviewed.”
The spokesperson also mentioned that Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa has decided to donate one month’s salary to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, while personnel between the ranks of Brig to Lt-Gen. would donate three days’ worth of their salaries. The personnel below the Col. rank and soldiers would donate two and one days’ worth of their salaries, respectively.
Maj-Gen Iftikhar also urged people to follow the guidelines issued by health authorities and the government.
While on March 17, this year, ISPR pointed out in a statement that army chief General Bajwa directed army commanders to take maximum necessary measures to assist the civil administration vis-à-vis safety and well-being of the people in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.”
The ISPR statement elaborated, “All medical facilities of armed forces are operationalized and geared up to deal with the pandemic and meet any eventuality-COVID-19 testing labs have been established at major military hospitals across the country and a central testing lab at Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rawalpindi-COVID-19 help desks have also been established at each military hospital for fast track handling-the armed forces of Pakistan are fully involved in assisting the government and the provincial administrations in tackling the situation”.
It is noteworthy that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) representative in Pakistan, Dr. Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala sated on March 13, 2020, that Pakistan had come up with the one of world’s best “national response programs” against COVID-19 pandemic and urged the people to follow the precautionary and preventive measures to avoid contracting the virus, which is extremely contagious but not as lethal as some other members of the coronavirus family— authorities were doing their job and now it is the responsibility of the people to follow the instructions and take preventive and precautionary measures to avoid contracting the viral disease.
He advised the people to avoid contracting the viral disease, adding: “They should avoid visiting public gatherings, maintain hand hygiene by washing their hands with soap and water, following coughing and sneezing etiquettes, and remaining indoors in case of flu-like symptoms…avoid visiting public gatherings…very important that people remain indoors for some days if they have flu-like symptoms. It would prevent other people from contracting the disease even if it is not COVID-19.”
It is a misfortune that on SM, many liberals are trying to raise the issue of human rights being violated, exaggerating police brutality during the lockdown. In fact, coronavirus does not care about human rights. People refused every call which their leaders have made regarding precautionary measures like self-isolation etc. Hence, tough and strict measures have been taken by the government.
Nonetheless, coronavirus pandemic requires that people must act upon the precautionary measures, taking note of the maximum-“prevention is better than cure.”
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: the US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations