Coronavirus cases in Pakistan have crossed 100,000 as Sindh reported 1,744 new infections. Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said that 8,119 tests were conducted during the last 24 hours, out of which 1,744 came back positive, taking the provincial tally to 38,108. The province has also reported 16 more deaths from the virus, taking its total fatalities to 650. Shah said that 414 patients are in critical condition while 67 are on ventilators. The chief minister said that 577 people recovered from the virus in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of recoveries in the province to 18,776. Eighty per cent of Sindh’s confirmed coronavirus cases have been reported from Karachi, according to data released by the provincial health department.
Now that numbers of both new coronavirus infections as well as deaths have been on a steep rise for a while, crossing the 100,000 mark, it seems an urgent rethink of the official policy is in order. There’s little chance of the prime minister coming round to accepting the necessity of another lockdown, and much time and money has already been invested in the reopening, prime focus must now shift to making sure that the healthcare system can withstand the steepening of the curve, so to speak. So far the government has been pretty confident that the situation will not spiral out of control. But since the virus is clearly spreading very fast, and our healthcare facilities were very limited to begin with, it can’t be too long before hospitals become overwhelmed and run out of space as well as necessary equipment.
Already new patients are being advised to isolate themselves in their homes, as opposed to shifting them to quarantine centres, precisely because there is no more space. For the government to appear in-control is understandable because the last thing anybody needs at this moment is panic spreading among the people. But appearing strong is one thing, and not being able to handle a bad situation is quite another. The government should spend this time in upgrading the medical infrastructure. It is a big ask, no doubt, but it’s not as if other countries have not done it. The best example comes from our neighbour China. Beijing could have also buried its head in the sand and decided to go about business as usual, but it realised the importance of not just a strict lockdown but also of providing timely medical care to all patients to keep the disease from spreading.
The government needs to realise that it can’t have the cake and eat it too. If it is going to gamble on opening up and keeping things in check, then it must have suitable contingency plans in place. It is, after all, the government’s responsibility to prepare for the worst case scenario before embarking upon any plan. And should things go wrong with this particular plan, of opening up the country despite the sharply rising number of cases, then there will be a lot of new patients to deal with. Therefore it is necessary to divert necessary funds towards the medical sector in the upcoming budget. This problem is clearly not going to go away anytime soon and countries all over the world are making such arrangements. We must also act now before it is too late.
The government needs to realise that it can’t have the cake and eat it too. If it is going to gamble on opening up and keeping things in check, then it must have suitable contingency plans in place.