Startling information about the working conditions for our frontline soldiers in the war against the Covid-19 coronavirus has been revealed by the National Emergency Operation Centre. At least 444 healthcare workers have tested positive for the virus, 191 of which came in the past week alone. Over 100 each belong to Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. By April 29, at least 216 doctors, 67 nurses and 161 other healthcare staffers had tested positive, including 138 that required hospitalisation. At least eight deaths have also been reported from Sindh, Gilgit-Baltistan, Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, and Islamabad.
The government’s claims of concern for healthcare workers are looking even emptier than before. While doctors are protesting over the unavailability of personal protective equipment (PPE), Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Health Dr Zafar Mirza claimed on Thursday that the government was “worried about medical workers” and would soon launch a programme for their protection. For at least eight healthcare workers, it will not be soon enough.
The SAPM also claimed that the government is providing PPE but it “not being used rationally”. He topped this off by saying the government “will train medics on the proper use of PPE.” This means the government believes that supply shortages is not a problem, but rather that medical professionals do not know how to use medical equipment. Either Mirza, himself a medical doctor, has gone all-in to defend the government’s failure, or he is telling the truth, and our doctors are terribly trained. Neither scenario has any silver lining.
Still, we are inclined to believe the former, especially since the federal government’s handling of the quarantine has been astoundingly erratic. Even the PM doesn’t appear to agree to the policies he is signing off on. While the lockdowns have immensely impacted the economy, there are ways to allow the economy to reopen while enforcing social distancing. Doctors are divided on this, but generally, they have been more concerned by the people’s refusal to follow quarantine and distancing rules during the lockdown. If the government could actually get citizens to act as responsible citizens, maybe it would not need to complain about its own lockdown.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2020.
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