The first case of COVID-19 was traced back on November 17, 2019, according to media reports on unpublished Chinese government data. However, on January 11, 2020 China officially announced its first death from the virus, a 61-year-old man who had purchased goods from the virus hit Chinese seafood market. Treatment did not improve his symptoms after he was admitted to hospital and he died of heart failure on the evening of January 9.
After the first death by this virus China started enforcing strict precautionary measures, including lockdown, set up of emergency hospital and treatment in the area. That was in fact the first alarming message to the world, in general, and to the neighboring countries, in particular.
Pakistan has very close strategic and business contacts with China where government delegations and people-to-people interaction is comparatively very high. But unfortunately, at the beginning the relevant departments and even citizens were not taking it seriously that how quickly this virus can spread in neighboring countries.
On January 26, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that the global risk from the novel coronavirus was ‘high’ and not ‘moderate’ as previously reported. With the confirmation of the WHO and other health departments, the virus was declared as epidemic and later pandemic.
Between January to March 2020, thousands of people and families also flew to Pakistan from all over the world and unfortunately we could not implement strict level of screening in the beginning and even in some cases staff from our relevant airport authorities cleared suspected patients and let them go home where these travelers met and spent time with their local contacts.
Similarly, Iran officially reported its first confirmed case of coronavirus on February 19, 2020 in the religious city of Qom. Even after this alarming situation and the outbreak of the virus in another neighboring country, our strategic planners and policymakers were not focusing on this issue. Pakistani citizens also have very close interaction and people to people contact and movement due to its religious linkages with Iran. It was confirmed that the affected pilgrims will come back and go to their respective areas.
Pilgrims returning from Iran were kept in quarantine at Taftan without any proper facilities and awareness. Taftan is a small border town without any facilities and it was very hard for the provincial government to supply or provide medical facilities to such a huge number of citizens far away from provincial capital. It was a wrong decision to initially keep all pilgrims at that place and later allowing them to move to their native districts. In this case also virus affected maximum normal pilgrims and later government allowed them to go home without any pre-cautionary measures.
These pilgrims could be directly sent to relevant districts without any further delay. By splitting these pilgrims and sending them to their relevant districts and for health departments, it was easy to handle any patient at district levels.
COVID-19 is a viral disease and is spreading through droplets of sneezing and cough by patients, so all types of gathering are also main cause that can be reason to further spread this virus. So, the delay in banning religious gatherings in January and February can also be serious reason for spreading the virus. Our religion has also this provision that if there is any chance that any gathering can cause any viral spread so we should avoid any types of gathering. Delay in mobilizing relevant stakeholders and to get any decision or decree has also some contribution in spreading this virus.
Pilgrims returning from Iran were kept in quarantine at Taftan without any proper facilities and awareness
Although, now all provincial and federal governments have decided to impose complete lockdown and Sindh is leading in the decision making to curb the situation. But all our decisions will be useless until and unless people are not staying homes.
Federal and provincial governments are trying their level best to utilize available resources and provide all medical equipment and facilities on very short notice and also providing some financial relief and support to majority of population.
All governments should also mobilize philanthropies and stakeholders to contribute and donate directly or indirectly to majority of population those who are working on daily wages and to lower middle-class people. This will help them to support and stay at home during the crisis.
Print and electronic media are also playing very important role to raise awareness, however, social media can also play more positive and effective role in this regard. People should also ensure to not share and post any invalid news that can increase the panic among the majority of population.
The role of emergency response unit, medical and paramedical staff, law enforcement agencies, relevant public and private sector organizations and disaster management authorities at federal and provincial level is also very appreciable but all their efforts will be useless if people do not support and cooperate with these departments. They all just need our cooperation in terms if we stay at home in self-isolation. This will also help them to treat and help the virus affected patients.
There is a lesson in this pandemic disease that how we should prepare ourselves for any future disasters. The government role is very important but citizens should also cooperate and follow government instructions to mitigate the effects of any future disasters.
The writer is associated with Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and views expressed by him are his own and do not necessarily reflect SDPI’s official stance
This article was originally published at: https://dailytimes.com.pk/584670/pre-and-post-covid-19-lessons/
The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint or stance of SDPI.