- If action has to be taken later, why not now?
The way lockdowns are proceeding in the country creates doubts rather than confidence in their ability to help control the coronavirus epidemic, as they are not doing enough to halt the human transmission of the coronavirus, as Pakistan on Sunday reached 1526 cases confirmed, and had suffered 13 deaths. This was well below the 123,000 cases recorded in the USA by Sunday evening, or the 3228 deaths, but all it means is that the disease is about to break out. The reluctance of the PTI government to impose a strict lockdown is explained away by a ‘noble’ concern for the daily wager, but it ignores the fact that to earn even that daily wage, and to consume what others produce, a person has to be alive. For the time being, the wheels of the economy and society seem to be turning, and the number of people observing self-isolation does not seem to have increased. The only sign of change has been the closing of schools and colleges, and even that is close enough to the spring break to make it seem normal.
The examples of Italy and Iran show what happens when the state takes a casual attitude, and leaves things to happen: a rapid proliferation of cases (92,000 in Italy and 38,000 in Iran), and a large number of deaths. The examples of China itself, and of South Korea and Germany, show that the disease can only be tackled by rigorous testing, with continuous tracing of others who have been in contact with the infected, followed by testing of those persons. In the short term, it might seem populist not to inconvenience people, but in the not-so-long term, it means a ballooning of cases, and of deaths, and a sagging of the economy because there are too many workers, producers and consumers who have died.
The government’s wing-and-a-prayer approach must give way to a more hardheaded one, where it does what needs to be done, rather than supinely trying to curry favour. Despite loud claims, the government failed to keep the illness out. It focused all its energy on the Chinese route, but left the disease to enter from Iran. Now it is fairly in all parts of the country. A rigorous lockdown accompanied by mass testing will not prevent further damage, but it will minimize it.