Politics of a pandemic

The response of the Pakistani government to the pandemic has been far from satisfactory. When China got infected, we were their immediate neighbors should have started working on our capacity building

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By Wasib Imdad

Coronavirus has swept the nook and cranny of the globe. As per the current state of affairs, the death toll has reached 6,500 whereas 164,000 people in 140 countries stand affected. The WHO has termed the coronavirus pandemic as a defining health crisis of our time and has urged for international cooperation.

Countries all across need to rise from their differences and think beyond politics ensuring a global response to this globally spread disease. Countries shall know that the virus knows no borders and the antidote to it shall too not. We have seen nationalist tendencies on a rise hampering the chances of a global unified response. Iran is gasping for help as amidst the virus frenzy it stands blacklisted and sanctioned. The US-China trade war is intensifying, and Saudi Arab and Russia find themselves in an oiled wrestle mania. China is downplaying the notion that the virus has spread from its province Hubei’s capital Wuhan. A tweet from Zhao Lijian says that it is the US military that may be behind the spread of this virus particularly in the countries with which the US is at loggerheads. Thus so far the response has been anything but global.

Throughout the globe, an internal and external blockade is being enforced. Let’s take examples from the International media for my local readers to let you know how the world is coping up with the COVID-19.

Switzerland has declared a state emergency. Guatemala has closed its borders for the next two weeks and Emanuel Macron of France has postponed the Mayoral elections. UK PM, Boris Johnson has ordered a ban on unnecessary travel and social contact asking the manufacturers including Ford, Honda, and Rolls Royce to manufacture ventilators to fight the coronavirus outbreak. Portugal and Spain have suspended air and rail traffic whereas Sudan has declared a public health emergency. The Finland Prime Minister has ordered to close schools and universities throughout the country. Turkey is temporarily closing cafes, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, gyms and other venues. Italy, on the rise of the death toll to 202, has ordered a complete black-out, people traveling by road must first write a letter to the concerned authorities to justify their travel and only then they are allowed to travel. Germany has shuttered most shops, bars, and churches. Malaysian PM MuhyiddinYassin has also announced a drastic two-week lockdown in the country following a sharp spike in the number of virus cases. Algeria has suspended travel to Europe amidst the Corona spread fears. Moscow has banned all the outdoor events and limited indoor public events to no more than 50 people. Chile too has closed borders to foreign travelers along with announcing a complete curfew internally. Greece has imposed 14-day quarantine on new arrivals. WHO has urged the countries to test every suspected case as fire cannot be fought blindfolded with ‘Test, test and test’ being the sole solution.

The response of the Pakistani government to the pandemic has been far from satisfactory. When China got infected, we were their immediate neighbors should have started working on our capacity building. We kept our eyes closed thus our preparations saw a slow start and only when the number of cases surged, the government started to move its hands and limbs. We, now, are lost in a no man’s land, seeing a rise in the number of affected with each passing hour. There are no isolation wards, the quarantines that are made are less in number and ill-equipped and there are no testing kits. People are in a state of panic where everyone is in a rush to get himself tested with each coronavirus test ranging in thousands. The hand sanitizers and masks are out of stock, people aren’t aware of how and when to use both and are just in a rush to stock them home. The government should ensure awareness of the grass-root level. People, currently, are lacking the basic know-how regarding the pandemic making them unable to meet the demands of the hour. Masses are void of the realization of what the coronavirus is, how this virus spread and what can be done to refrain it from entering our household. For the purpose, the government needs to mobilize its social and mainstream media cells to ensure that people get the proper information from authentic sources instead of falling prey to the forwarded Whats App messages; a zoo of conspiracy theories and theorists.

The numbers of cases of corona affectees in China have now decreased to single digits and our Chinese neighbors are claiming a victory over the virus. Countries from across the globe are inviting the Chinese teams to come and tell of how to get over with the rampant disease. Our government needs to ensure that Chinese knowledge is made use of. China tells the world that social distancing and social distancing only is the way to meet eyeballs with the pandemic. Our government must ensure the stitch in time to save nine of the later. While countries across the globe are shutting themselves up, it is becoming mandatory for the government here to order a panic-less lockdown. All the public spots, malls, parks, governmental and non-governmental offices are shut down and only grocery shops, banks, and pharmacies remain open.

The writer is an Islamabad based Broadcast Journalist. He tweets @wasib25