WHO’s concern

As the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases around 5,000 a day over the last 10 days in Pakistan

Editorial June 11, 2020
The rise in the number of Covid-19 cases — around 5,000 a day over the last 10 days or so — in Pakistan has raised WHO’s concern. The World Health Organization believes the authorities in the country need to impose an intermittent lockdown to curb the spread of the mushrooming virus that has infected 113,702 people and claimed 2,255 lives as of Wednesday, pushing the country to the 15th rank in terms of most Covid-19 cases. The United Nations agency — through a letter addressed to the Punjab Health Minister, Dr Yasmin Rashid — has also noted that the country did not meet any of the six prerequisites when easing the lockdown on May 1 and then nearly lifting it on May 22.

The WHO’s concerns as regards the spread of the deadly microbe in the country and insufficient facilities to cope with it are pretty justified. But nearly as justified, if not equally, is the response of the government towards the reigning pandemic. An economy — which was already sinking and unable to run without foreign loans and domestic debts and without raising the burden of taxes on the people year on year — is understood to have taken a terrible hit from the coronavirus; there is no need to quote figures here. For such a country, imposing a lockdown — which essentially means holding the economy in shackles — is no easy solution. And then how would a shackled economy cater to the 25 million labourers and daily-wage workers in the country is indeed a big concern for the government.

The government, however, cannot just see the infection graph rise and rise by the day, solely relying on the people to adopt social distancing. It will have to see how best it could address the WHO’s concerns — which is after all in our own best interest — without much harming the economy that is still struggling to find its feet in the wake of the reopening of some financial sectors. In what forms a kind of government response to the recommendations made by WHO, Punjab Health Minister Dr Yasmin Rashid says that the matter will be presented for the cabinet’s review. The government is indeed walking a tightrope in seeking to save the lives of the people without disrupting the means of their livelihoods. It’s time for the government to act prudently. 

Published in The Express Tribune, June 11th, 2020.

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