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Comprehensive plan to Contain Coronavirus

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Globally almost 6,000 people have died, and more than 2000,000 have been infected by coronavirus pandemic, also named as COVID-19. Besides Asia and Africa, this virus has enveloped Western countries including, Italy, France, Germany, UK, Spain, USA etc.

Now, coronavirus is rapidly spreading on our planet. Therefore, many Western countries have closed the academic institutions, while some states like Italy has imposed lockdown. In order to stop gathering of the people, religious, political and social protests are not being allowed, while public events such as games, musical events etc., including other functions like marriage ceremonies have been curbed.  Many countries have also closed markets, hotels and restaurants, and have banned conferences and seminars.

Taking precautionary measures, airport screening of passengers is being done not only at airports, but also at other transport places like railway stations, bus stations etc. To further prevent the coronavirus outbreak, authorities of the many countries such as the UK has stepped out screening of passengers arriving from coronavirus sensitive countries.

Owing to the impact of COVID-19, world’s some governments have also imposed curfews and national emergency, and many of them have forced travel restrictions of various kinds—airlines have announced drastic reduction in their operations. And some countries have closed border with the neighbouring countries.

US President Donald Trump has announced a suspension of “all travel from Europe to the America for the next 30 days.

Different countries have adopted testing of the persons, suspected by the indications of the COVID-19.

Regrettably, people of numerous countries are not acting upon governments’ instructions and health departments’ advice to save them from this fatal disease.

As regard Pakistan where causalities of the affected people are at low level, but, it has also taken almost similar measures, taken by other Western countries, especially China who has succeeded in controlling the coronavirus. In this regard, Pakistan Government has also closed down schools, colleges and banned the marriage ceremonies etc. The Government announced on March 15, 2020 that section 144 had been imposed in the country after new cases of the virus were reported in the country. A ban was also imposed on sit-ins and processions, rallies at public places, sports gathering and cinemas.

But, despite various precautionary measures, Pakistan government said that coronavirus will further spread, so people must take care in accordance with the instructions of the medical experts and the health department.

In this respect, in wake of larger outbreak of cronavirus in the world, addressing the nation in the televised speech on March 17, this year, Pakistan’s Prime Minister said: “We as a nation need to win this war against coronavirus” and asked the people “to adopt five precautionary measures to overcome the highly contagious disease…everyone must avoid gatherings of more than 40 people. Handshaking must also be avoided…those arriving from abroad to go in a 14-day self-quarantine…to lessen burden on healthcare staff, only those with severe symptoms should visit hospitals…testing as every flu and cough is not COVID-19.” Urging the nation not to be afraid, and telling them “to act responsibly as the novel coronavirus continues to spread across the country, the PM Imran elaborated: “The virus was dangerous for old people since it attacked their already-weakened immune system…97% of the affectees recovered from the virus. He paid tribute “to the Government of Balochistan and the Pakistan Army for ensuring that pilgrims arriving from Taftan were quarantined…the government is following the coronavirus situation closely…the US, Italy and England have reacted differently to the virus….Pakistan cannot afford the same response as European countries…Our economic situation is very fragile…If we close down the country, what will happen to the poor? People will die of hunger…the difficult decision to prohibit public gatherings and ban events where public showed up in huge numbers such as the Pakistan Super League 2020.”

The premier stated: “while the government and people will have to take precautions…people should know that the virus will spread…I feared food prices will once again rise as profiteers and hoarders will again resume illicit activities…I want to warn these people not to make money from the people’s misery…The state will take stern action against you.” He further said that the virus was “spreading in countries” and “the government is studying responses of other governments…how they were acting to eliminate the pandemic…President Arif Ali is currently on a China visit and he would bring home the lessons learnt by the Chinese government in its fight against coronavirus.”

Prime Minister added: “It is our belief that life and death are in the hands of Allah…the government will help them in their ‘Jihad’ against the coronavirus… the country’s Ulem said that it was their responsibility to play a positive role in the crisis.”

In this connection, on the same day the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said in a statement that Pakistan’s chief of army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa directed army commanders to take maximum necessary measures to assist the civil administration vis-à-vis safety and well-being of the people in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.”

The ISPR statement pointed out, “All medical facilities of armed forces are operationalized and geared up to deal with the pandemic and meet any eventuality-COVID-19 testing labs have been established at major military hospitals across the country and a central testing lab at Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rawalpindi-COVID-19 help desks have also been established at each military hospital for fast track handling-the armed forces of Pakistan are fully involved in assisting the government and the provincial administrations in tackling the situation”.

It is notable that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) representative in Pakistan, Dr Palitha Gunarathna Mahipala sated on March 13, 2020 that Pakistan had come up with the one of world’s best “national response programmes” against COVID-19 pandemic and urged the people to follow the precautionary and preventive measures to avoid contracting the virus, which is extremely contagious but not as lethal as some other members of the coronavirus family— authorities were doing their job and now it is the responsibility of the people to follow the instructions and take preventive and precautionary measures to avoid contracting the viral disease.

He advised the people to to avoid contracting the viral disease, adding: “They should avoid visiting public gatherings, maintain hand hygiene by washing their hands with soap and water, following coughing and sneezing etiquettes, and remaining indoors in case of flu-like symptoms…avoid visiting public gatherings…very important that people remain indoors for some days if they have flu-like symptoms. It would prevent other people from contracting the disease even if it is not COVID-19.”

Notably, on March 13, this year, for the first time, Pakistan’s National Security Committee (NSC) meeting was held to discuss the looming healthcare crisis. Prime Minister Imran Khan chaired the meeting of the NSC, a council composed of top civil and military leadership, to review the alarming health situation. The premier directed the officials concerned to devise a comprehensive strategy to prevent the spread of the disease, and take immediate countermeasures.

A day after, he presided over meeting of the NCC,  PM Imran tweeted that there was “a need for caution, there is no need for panic… the health of the people is the government’s foremost priority…National Coordination Committee for Covid-19 has been established to monitor the situation and take necessary decisions on a daily basis. The committee will have the representation of all provinces and relevant stakeholders. National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) will lead the operations and coordinate with the provincial and district authorities for the necessary implementation of the preventive and curative actions.”

Nevertheless, the Pakistan needs to implement a comprehensive plan to contain the coronavirus, as announced by the government. But, it is also essential for the people to act upon the instructions of government and those of the central and provincial health departments to save themselves from this deadly disease.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: [email protected]

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