(Further Harangues of a Layman [COVID]- 3)
May 30, 2020
(This is a long article)
Since my last “diatribe” on this topic (https://dinshawavari.com/2020/04/19/imitation-is-the-sincerest-form-of-flattery-further-ramblings-of-a-layman-covid-2/), we have opened a lot of our lockdown sectors, retail outlets, business, etc.
Now comes the question- has lockdown helped or not.
Personally I believe that lockdown was an important strategy at the outset of this pandemic- however, it should have been all encompassing and stricter. Our businesses have been closed for last two months instead of 2-3 weeks – and that is due to a “hybrid” system instead of “total” lockdown.
However, dynamics have changed. Two months without income cannot sustain any economic band of society- it’s just not possible. Giving credit where it’s due – to the State Bank and the Federal Government for supporting companies and businesses – is important but it isn’t enough for someone to feed 4-5 mouths on a daily basis in a population of 250 Million!
(1) Part of the problem lies in partisan politics.
Australia, with its diverse political structure and strong provincial autonomy, banded together like no other in this crisis. Partisan politics were set aside for a country-specific policy. Consensus-based decision making was the norm. The PM and the coordination committee with representatives of all provinces made JOINT decisions. This is not so in Pakistan!
(2) As long as citizens of a country do not cooperate with the government, no amount of the “stick” or “carrot” will work. The administration can beat their head against the wall creating SOPs but if in our own heart we don’t follow them, then it’s as good as a failed policy.
Sweden’s “partial lockdown” system worked due to the Swedish people’s sense of responsibility in social distancing. They took it upon themselves to ensure they followed the government’s policies in return for a more open society. This is not so in Pakistan!
(3) Successful countries have followed the advice of scientists and doctors. Government policies, politics, [maybe] some personal freedoms have been set aside to listen to, and implement, actions recommended by “virus experts”.
Here again, Australia, Korea, New Zealand, etc followed what experts in this field advised them. It may have run contrary to their own thinking or policy but they listened to people who knew what they were talking about. This is not so in Pakistan!
(4) I do not support pollution or lack of hygiene & sanitation! However, can a fair case be made that in countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, while there is a high Corona Virus count, the death rate [to overall COVID cases] ratio is not as high as in the developed world? Why?
Let’s look it like this- the pollution, smog, vehicular emissions, sewerage, slums, lack of sanitation, etc in the general populace is the “norm” unfortunately; food is prepared over open sewages; generations are born and die in slums in the center of our cities; 50% of the population drink polluted tap water directly; flies are our regular lunch & dinner dates; mosquitos thrive on our blood … whose immunity will NOT be built? These are the living standards in Pakistan! However, this should not be the case in Pakistan!
All these factors and more – cash economy, daily wagers, population density, public transport, education levels, etc – play their share on a macro basis in determining whether to lockdown a country or not. We lack in so many of these areas that I do not believe Pakistan can afford to lockdown the country further.
Smarter policing is required – political partisanship has to be shunned – geographical and economic aspects should be accounted for – and based on these aspects an all-inclusive, sustained policy be devised.
Can Pakistan please band together!?