- Efforts need to be ramped up to avoid an Italy-like situation
The prime minister of Pakistan Mr. Imran Khan, in a recent interview with the Associated Press of Pakistan, has expressed his concerns over the possible upsetting impacts the Coronavirus might have on countries facing economic instability and unsteadiness. He said, “My worry is poverty and hunger. The world community has to think of some sort of a debt write-off for countries like us, which are very vulnerable, at least that will help us in coping with (the Coronavirus).” The Prime Minister’s suggestion is worth considering. The scenario towards which he has tried to draw the attention of the world had once destroyed the whole social and economic fiber of the world somewhere in the 14th century. Today it is the Coronavirus, back then it was the plague, more commonly known as the Black Plague and Black Death. That devastating epidemic resulted in the deaths of more than 200 million people in Eurasia and its climax was observed during the period of 1347 to 1351 in Europe. Reports say that ‘the plague created a number of religious, social and economic upheavals, with profound effects on the course of European history’.
Another report on the consequences of the Black Death says, “Half of Paris’s population of 100,000 people died. In Italy, the population of Florence was reduced from 110,000–120,000 inhabitants in 1338 down to 50,000 in 1351. At least 60% of the population of Hamburg and Bremen perished and a similar percentage of Londoners may have died from the disease as well. In London approximately 62,000 people died between 1346 and 1353.” The story does not stop here; this scourge gave birth to so many economic and social problems. The most important problem was that of the lack of lobourers. With such a large population decline wages soared in response to a labor shortage. According to the Decameron Web, “The plague had large scale social and economic effects. People abandoned their friends and family, fled cities, and shut themselves off from the world. Funeral rites became perfunctory or stopped altogether, and work ceased being done.” Today the Coronavirus is dragging the world towards the same direction.
A complete lockdown resulting in the closure of all nonessential businesses is in effect across Pakistan. Italy currently has the highest number of Corona virus cases in Europe and has crossed the 10,000 mark in number of deaths. The virus has been catastrophic for the country.
In the days of the Black Death, the world was not a global village; there were time-taking distances but now those long distances have been shortened to hours and days. For viruses, the journey from one place to the other place is as easy as it is for human beings. We see that this virus has spread throughout the world in just a few weeks. From US to Afghanistan, no country is safe from this virus. The severity of its consequences could possibly be the same as that of the Black Death. Another important fact is that fighting with this virus requires a lot of financial resources and certainly countries like Pakistan don’t have such resources. In case this disease spreads uncontrollably in Pakistan, it won’t be possible for the government, which is already under the burden of billions of dollars of debt, to control it vehemently. Prime Minister Imran Khan has pointed out towards the same threat. He said, “Exports would fall, unemployment would soar and an onerous national debt would become an impossible burden.” He further said, “If a serious outbreak happens in the country, the government’s efforts to lift the economy out of near-collapse would begin an unstoppable slide backward.” He alerted the world around that the consequences of this scourge would not remain limited to Pakistan only, India and many of the African countries would also be facing the horrible consequences of this scourge. He hsd urged the international community to think of some sort of debt write-off for vulnerable countries like Pakistan.
At present, the government of Pakistan is doing all it can to stop this pandemic from spreading further. Learning a lesson from Italy, the government of Pakistan has put a ban on public gatherings in public parks, schools, colleges, universities, shopping malls and even in the mosques. With the help of radio, TV, newspapers and social media, the government is trying to make the public aware of the precautionary measures with reference to the Coronavirus. A complete lockdown resulting in the closure of all nonessential businesses is in effect across Pakistan. Italy currently has the highest number of Corona virus cases in Europe and has crossed the 10,000 mark in number of deaths. The virus has been catastrophic for the country.
According to a survey report, the number of confirmed cases in Italy surged from hundreds to thousands within two weeks, from a few hundred in the third week of February to more than 3,000 in the first week of March and crossed 10,000 on 10 March and they have multiplied in the same fashion since. The only reason behind this rapid increase in the number of cases is that the public in Italy did not take the precautionary measures imposed by the government seriously. Certainly, the people of Pakistan have realized the severity and gravity of the matter and they are doing all possible cooperation with the government in this regard. Hopefully, due to the measures being taken by the government the situation will improve. Pakistanis are a brave nation; they know very well how to face the calamities and how to defeat disasters.