Coronavirus Pandemic: ‘Prevention is Better than Cure’
Coronavirus pandemic also named as COVID-19 which is, rapidly, spreading across the world has killed more than 22,000 people and infected over 510,000 people despite lockdowns in many countries, especially Western states, putting over 1.3 billion in self-isolation. After affecting 200 countries, the disease is enveloping new territories.
In Spain and Italy, more persons have died due to COVID-19, as every day new individuals are being contaminated, raising the death doll.
Therefore, many Western countries, including Asia academic institutions have been closed, while, restrictions have been imposed on gathering of the people—religious, political and social protests, while public events such as games, musical events etc., including other functions like marriage ceremonies have been curbed. These countries have also closed markets, hotels and restaurants, and have banned conferences and seminars.
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, authorities of the many countries has stepped out screening of passengers arriving from coronavirus sensitive countries.
Owing to the impact of COVID-19, world’s some governments have also imposed curfews and national emergency, and many of them have forced travel restrictions of various kinds—airlines have announced drastic reduction in their operations. And some countries have closed border with the neighbouring countries.
US President Donald Trump has announced a suspension of “all travel from Europe to the America for the next 30 days.
Different countries have adopted testing of the persons, suspected by the indications of the contravirus.
As regard Pakistan, it has also taken almost similar measures, taken by other Western countries, especially China who has succeeded in controlling COVID-19. In this respect, Government of Pakistan has also closed down schools, colleges and banned the marriage ceremonies etc. A ban was also imposed on sit-ins and processions, rallies at public places, sports gathering and cinemas.
Up to March 27, this year, the number of coronavirus-deaths in Pakistan has reached the figure of nine, whereas the number of total cases affected by the virus is 1,128.
As most of the Pakistanis were not taking precautionary 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 to stop further outbreak of this fatal disease.
In this respect, the Sindh government has imposed a complete lockdown in the province, while Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa opted for partial lockdowns. Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu Kashmir are also shut down due to the spread of the disease. According to the directions of the government, various civil offices and installations have been closed. However, medical stores and hospitals have been exempted.
It is regrettable that most of the citizens are violating the restrictions, imposed for their own protection. Hence, the number of coronavirus cases is increasing day by day in the country. The military and paramilitary soldiers as well as police have also placed barricades on various points to stop the unnecessary movements of the people. If the citizens have a justified reason, they are allowed to travel. Security forces have also arrested many people who were found violating the 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.
Medical experts of Center for Disease Control (CDC) opine that there is difference between self-isolation and self-quarantine—“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.”
However, 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…A lockdown means putting a curfew and restricting people to their homes with the military on the streets…Ninety per cent of the people who get coronavirus recover after a few days…the virus could be curbed if people stopped attending gatherings and weddings and started staying at home to ensure 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 on March 17, this year, 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…to lessen burden on healthcare staff, only those with severe symptoms should visit hospitals…testing as every flu and cough is not COVID-19…The virus was dangerous for old people since it attacked their already-weakened immune system…97% of the affectees recovered from the virus….Our economic situation is very fragile…If we close down the country, what will happen to the poor? People will die of hunger. It is our belief that life and death are in the hands of Allah…the government will help them in their ‘Jihad’ against the coronavirus… the country’s Ulem 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 in 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, media should advise the people positively, as people 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 spread of 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 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 virus, it is important that 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 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 apprise 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 coronovirus 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 have 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 programmes” 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 misfortune that on SM, many liberals are trying to raise the issue of human rights being violated, exaggerating police brutality during 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: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations