Testing times arrive along with coronavirus
The headlines around the world now read like world war reporting. After China, Italy, Iran and South Korea; France and Spain joined them in imposing lockdowns on tens of millions of people. Australia ordered self-isolation of arriving foreigners.
President Trump has declared a national emergency after weeks of self-denial and calling coronavirus as a hoax. Saudi Arabia has suspended Umra pilgrimage and has announced strict measures limiting foreign travel. Philippine has moved to lock down its capital Manila and imposed night curfew. Argentina and El Salvador extended entry bans to contain the spreading of coronavirus. The list goes on with the addition of Pakistan in early stages of partial lockdown, border controls and widespread measured under health emergency.
Roll out of various measures like closing the educational institutions, calling off 23rd March Parade, cutting short the PSL’s matches, closing down marriage halls and banning large gatherings have woken up the nation to a new challenge. So far, over 94 confirmed patients infected by COVID19; as now being called with its scientific name, have been reported. Three patients recovered so far and sent home. Federal and provincial governments are now busy in deliberating and announcing the measures to restrict the spread of the deadly virus.
Though the time would tell how far the governments are prepared to confront the outbreak the Federal Government has not lost a moment of self-praising. Media reports suggest that Country Head of WHO has praised the “par excellent Government preparations”. It might be reassuring for the blown up egos of the ruling elite in Islamabad but time would tell if the hasty self-praising stands the test of Times.
It is an open secret that the health system of the country is already suffering from multiple inefficiencies and corruption. Health is primarily a provincial subject with policy and regulatory framework with the Federal Government. 18th Amendment further diluted the role of Federal Government leaving it with a limited capability and capacity to combat with challenges like the one at hand; COVID-19.
Coronavirus first erupted in Wuhan city of China in November last year. Since the last two months, its spread in other countries raised the alarm bells and the world started to wake up to a new global crisis. WHO declared Coronavirus as Pandemic last week and Europe being its new epicentre. China is the 2nd largest economy, factory of the world, the largest country on earth and a tightly governed by one party had a hard time to manage its containment. China is now slowly recovering from the onslaught of this virus with new cases lately dropped to a single digit.
With enormous resources and high-end technology available at hand, China could later catch up its earlier complacency by swift resources mobilization, makeshift hospitals, daring steps of
locking down many cities and areas to finally contain the deadly virus. Loss of economic slowdown aside, its image as a mighty rising superpower was on trial. China was criticised earlier the way it handled the outbreak but later it earned praises from all over the world due to its swift and massive countermeasures which led to decisive containment of the virus.
COVID-19 is a new virus and the world is learning slowly how to confront it. With no empirical scientific research work at hand, scientists are now desperately scrambling to study, develop vaccine and evolve preventive measure to tame its deadliness.
Meanwhile, rumour mongers with handy social media flooded the cyberspace with fake news and concocted prescriptions wrapped as secret formulas taking rounds of millions of cell phone screens. WHO and the governments around the world had hard task to clear the nonstop bombardment of misinformation.
Much earlier than the arrival of coronavirus in Pakistan, social media here was full of misinformation and fake prescriptions. Now that the scary virus is here; social media is overflowing with all sorts of rumors and misinformation. Political shade of rumors and misinformation is fast dividing the already divided nation.
Sindh Government publically expressed its displeasure a few days ago about the non-coordination of Federal government. Spokesperson of PMLN mercilessly criticized the Advisor of Health on a press report allegedly allowing the export of face masks to China when the crises were in waiting to strike in homeland too. Media outlets desperately are making the best out of the crises by discussing it in endless talk shows and trying to find and expose the incompetence of the government for their ratings.
The nation needs unity and cohesive political consensus like never before during these testing times. Our health system is marred with serious institutional capability in routine; what to talk of handling a widespread and deadly coronavirus. Borders control has always been a point of concern and often termed as porous borders. The population of 220 million is already frustrated and somewhat angry due to daily life hardships and the unassuming response of political brass on the helm of the affairs. An economy already under severe stress is up for another rough ride.
Federal and provincial governments are now up to testing times. Political bickering needs to be set aside to forge inclusive political response. Transparency, mutual trust, well-coordinated data-driven decision making with timely and proactive resource mobilization would be the key success factors to sail through this storm. Media needs to behave more responsibly. People at large need to align with the government measures. Overall, it’s the capacity and capability of the State and Nation on trial how it faces the Testing Times.