- Healthcare workers are the real heroes in this pandemic
Pakistan lost its first doctor to the COVID-19 outbreak yesterday in Gilgit-Baltistan. Dr Osama Riaz who was screening pilgrims returning to the country from Pakistan contracted the deadly virus and met his demise within days. Had the necessary protective gear been provided; Dr Riaz’s death could have very well been avoided. A very tense situation now prevails in GB where physicians are threatening to go on strike if equipment is not provided soon. In Italy, Dr Marcello Natali died due to shortage of new gloves and masks, taking the total tally of medical professionals dying there to 13. Doctors in the US are already ringing alarm bells, warning that a shortage of medical supplies that allow medical practitioners to safely attend to patients would be catastrophic. As thousands of healthcare workers across the country continue tirelessly to provide treatment to patients carrying a highly contagious pathogen that has affected close to 900 citizens already, the federal and provincial governments must make sure that all supplies to protect doctors and nurses from infection are in ample supply.
So far, the government has been unable to actively control the spread of the virus due to poor quarantine facilities with the majority of the population not practicing self-isolation as there is no enforced lockdown in place. A welcome sense of direction has been provided by DG ISPR Babar Iftikhar who has asked for the citizenry to cooperate with the army that has been deployed. Bringing people to people contact to a bare minimum across the country is crucial while continuous testing has to be ramped up. This will help in arresting the rapid spread of the disease while identifying those who are affected so that they can be quarantined. Short of this, Pakistan’s already dilapidated, underfunded and ill-equipped healthcare system, will completely collapse under the wave of patients that it simply cannot accommodate. We should learn from countries that have given their respective healthcare systems a fighting chance by doing their job so that the doctors, nurses and all those working in the field of medicine could effectively do theirs. This is the least that we owe to the brave professionals who are in the line of fire, fighting with a sense of duty to save lives at the risk of losing their own.