–Official says poor handling of cases in Taftan, insufficient funds led to spread of virus
–Another says PM has to choose between human life or economy
As cases of coronavirus continue to surge, experts and government officials have called upon the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government to impose a complete lockdown in the country, which would be difficult but still ‘a less painful victory’ in the fight against the deadly virus.
A large number of people have expressed reservations over the government’s decision of not imposing a curfew to keep the virus at bay and warned that the time was short to adopt such preventive measures. The cases in Pakistan have already quadrupled in a single week.
The demand has gained strength following the announcement of lockdown in Sindh, which shut down the province for 15 days.
However, the government officials, including chief executive Imran Khan, are reluctant to shut down the entire owning to its economic and social cost.
In order to understand the government’s perspective, different government officials, who are closing monitoring the situation were contacted. They said that a “lockdown was not suitable for any country in the world because of its social and economic implications and countries only opt for it when there was no alternative”.
However, others give the example of Italy, battered by the virus because of its delay in chalking up a strategy to contain the disease.
“Italy delayed a lockdown and is now paying a heavy price for that. Over 5,000 people have died due to coronavirus whereas the economy is also dwindling. In order to control the economic situation, Italy’s premier has repeatedly increased the size of the economic package. The most recent announcement was of 25 billion euros but the Italian government is currently working on an even bigger package,” said an official.
China is also an example. It locked down Wuhan city in January with extreme limitations on movement and succeeded in curbing the spread of the virus.
Officials feared that Pakistan was already late as the government had “avoided spending money on containing pilgrims at Taftan”.
They added that the maximum cost would have been Rs1 billion with zero human casualties if a timely decision was taken to contain the people coming from Iran, whereas now when the pilgrims have reached different cities of the country, the human and economic cost is likely to increase in the coming days.
“Pakistan should still go for a lockdown immediately,” an official said, adding the advantage of this move would be a less painful victory over the virus. The economy will suffer nevertheless, as demand would fall and production would also decrease, which will eventually bring the GDP growth down.
IS THERE AN ALTERNATIVE?
When asked, the officials said that the answer is no because it would be impossible to keep the country running with unidentified coronavirus roaming around. They warned that if the situation continues like this, casualties will increase and the people will ask why did the government not go for an early lockdown.
They said that the prime minister has to decide between human life and economic gains but the decision must be made quickly as the country is running out of time.