Pandemic fear takes toll on mental health in Lahore

Incident of self-immolation raises many questions


​ Our Correspondent April 17, 2020
A Reuters representational image.

LAHORE: The paranoia of being infected by the global pandemic of coronavirus (Covid-19) and the most effective preventive measure, social distancing, are impacting the mental health of people in the metropolis.

Several surveys and reports have pointed out a surge in incidents of domestic violence as well as a rise in the ratio of divorce filing around the world. A few days back, a unique incident of driving off over 300 kilometres from children and wife by an individual from Europe was also reported.

The pandemic besides disturbing socio-economic life of an overwhelming majoring is leaving adverse effects on mental health all over Pakistan. In such an incident, an elderly man reportedly took his life by setting himself ablaze in Ghaziabad.

The victim was identified as Hanif, 60, a resident of Harinagar, Ghaziabad. The victim was suffering from a chronic breathing problem. A few people reportedly started telling him that he was suffering from Covid-19. The victim took it so seriously that he went to the local graveyard, sprinkled oil on himself and set himself on fire.

Reportedly, a few nearby people kept on watching the scene while the victim went through the whole process of sprinkling petrol, setting himself ablaze and screaming before falling unconscious. Hanif suffered severe burn injuries and died on the spot.

A police team reached the spot on information and shifted the body. They also collected forensic evidence from the crime scene and recorded statements of the eye-witnesses. The victim has been laid to rest by his heirs after completing legal formalities. Police said that they were investigating the matter further.

Meanwhile, confirmed Covid-19 cases in Lahore kept on pouring in, keeping police and other law enforcement agencies on toes.

So far at least 859 houses have been turned into quarantine centres in 13 sealed localities. Confirmed cases of coronavirus were reported from these localities. Policemen have been deployed at the entrance and exit points of the localities ot keep a check on the movement of the citizens. At least 13 areas of Lahore including Imamia Colony, Mughalpura, Raiwind City, Sikandaria Colony, Bedian Road, China Scheme, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Rustam Park, Samanabad, Shahdara and others were sealed by the authorities.

Moreover, at least 522 confirmed cases have been reported in the provincial capital so far and the number of quarantine centres is increasing in the city. On Thursday, the high command of Lahore police visited a quarantine centre established at the hostel of the University of Lahore.

A surge in the number of quarantine centres subsequent to deployment at pickets for lockdown and implementation of Section 144 has further overburdened the manpower of the police force.

The lack of personal protection equipment (PPE) and police officials working in the field have further increased the woes. The rank and file of the police force have also started expressing desperation in this scenario, an officer shared with The Express Tribune. This desperation is across the board from constables to the senior officers as the cases so far had been reported from almost every establishment from the police station to the superintendent of police (SP) office. A constable from Mughalpura police station deployed at a picket was tested positive. An official performing duty as staff of deputy superintendent of police (DSP) and an official deputed at the office of an SP have also been tested positive for coronavirus.

Another officer shared that due to the lockdown, mobility and economic activities have been reduced. This has led to a decline in crime graph. However, relaxation in lockdown, increase in quarantine centres and checking at pickets with Section 144 implementation would require more police deployment.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2020.

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