Time for empathy

In a situation when common people are facing the two equally dangerous prospects, govts need to take the middle way

Editorial May 02, 2020

Like elsewhere in the world, clamour for relaxing the lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus is growing in Pakistan too. Especially the country’s working classes are getting restive because of the prolonged restrictions on physical movement, as every passing day they see their savings getting depleted or even entirely dried up. Even in the US and European countries, which have seen a high number of deaths and infections, businesses and workers have been demanding easing of the lockdown to enable people to keep their bodies and souls together. In developing countries like Pakistan, the case for a moderate lockdown is fairly strong. Infections and fatalities in the country are much lower than the projections.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is rightly in favour of a moderate lockdown in view of the fact that the country has a large population who earn their livelihood on a day-to-day basis. They have nothing to fall back upon except to sell their labour in the market. On the other hand, the Sindh government is enforcing a strict lockdown which is an effective way of ensuring social distancing necessary for preventing the deadly virus. They are also hinting at further tightening the lockdown during Ramazan as they fear that infections might increase in this month because people tend to converge on markets to buy food items and for Eid shopping. The provincial government’s fears are not entirely unfounded.

In a situation when the common people are facing the two equally dangerous prospects of either dying from the coronavirus or from hunger, governments need to take the middle way. If birds are left in closed cages without water and food, sooner or later they will die of thirst and hunger. Curbs are necessary to protect people from the deadly virus, but excessive controls are proving counter-productive.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2020.

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