The total number of coronavirus cases in Pakistan, by the time this was written, stood at 19,854 and the same is likely to reach the 20,000 mark some time today or by tomorrow morning.
Every ten days, the number of COVID-19 cases in Pakistan double. Just look at the month of April and how many cases increased, especially after easing down the lockdown. The government, however, thinks that coronavirus has not been “as fatal in Pakistan as it has been in many other countries”, especially the west.
Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar recently said, “Coronavirus has caused 58 per cent more deaths in the United States (US), 207 per cent more in Spain and 124 per cent more in the United Kingdom (UK) as compared to Pakistan in the same period.” Even if we think the mortality rate is lower when compared to other countries, it does not mean we have to be lax about it. Official projections predict 150,000 cases by the end of this month.
What was even more surprising was how, in a recent speech, Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan shifted the blame of the lockdown to the “elite”. He said the decision to impose a lockdown was taken by the elite and the rich, without thinking of the poor. PM Imran tweeted to that effect also while felicitating Muslims for Ramzan.
The premier blames the elite and rich for taking this decision when it was indeed he and his government that imposed the lockdown. Granted that Imran himself was against the lockdown and finally gave in due to the health emergency but blaming the elite, in this case, is quite misplaced. The World Health Organization (WHO) and others who are dealing with the coronavirus pandemic have recommended lockdowns and aggressive testing apart from social distancing and other measures that we have to take in order to avoid falling prey to this pandemic.
China went for a lockdown and PM Imran doesn’t tire of giving China’s example so why blame the rich and the elite for a lockdown in Pakistan — a lockdown that is now not much of a lockdown either. Traffic has increased, more shops are open, and except for Sindh, mosques are open as well during Ramzan.
While we acknowledge that self-isolation is a privilege that isn’t afforded by many, especially the poor, we do not have the answer to how we will cope with an outbreak if cases start to rise exponentially. Doctors have recently warned that Pakistan’s healthcare system will collapse if this happens. So where will the poor go if lockdown is relaxed and they get coronavirus?
The rich and elite and privileged will go to private hospitals but what about the poor? We have to choose between struggle and death, and can only hope that the cases in Pakistan remain low.