Muhammad Zubair Shahid
Finally, on 8th May 2020 Federal Government in National Coordination Committee decided that continued lock down will be lifted from 11th May 2020. Government has allowed the business sector to resume the operations and open the retail markets all over the country. This decision was welcomed and warmly received by business community and traders nationwide. Since there was immense pressure on federal and provincial governments for resuming the economic activity. Business kept suspended for more than 48 days due to nationwide lockdown announced by government, which was questioning the survival of businesses and the dependents.
On the other hand, this decision was opposed by Pakistan Medical Association, Health Practitioners Opposition and Journalists. PMA and Doctors have raised questions on the seriousness and efficacy of partial lockdown as the number of infections continued to grow during lockdown. Doctors are demanding government to extend the lockdown with more stringent restrictions. Doctors have warned the government about the risk of infection spread, if lockdown is eased or lifted. It is being clearly told that it will be impossible to manage the patients if the number is increased. We know that our public health sector is one of most neglected sectors, and has limited facilities to combat this pandemic.
During these crises federal government failed to bring harmony between provinces and federation, there was absence of uniform policy and SOPs. PM Imran khan always opposed openly the idea of locking down the country due to poor people, daily wagers and people living the life below poverty line, despite his opposition Pakistan underwent lock down for 49 days. He has been giving various statements on the lockdown which were contradicting to each other and spreading confusion among the nation which resulted in lack of clarity and unity among the nation. The message and direction were not clear from the government.
It was 2nd working day after the lockdown, businesses were allowed to operate as per SOPs, these SOPs were approved and mutually agreed by government and trade unions, but today media reports revealed that markets were over crowded all SOPs were violated. No law enforcing agencies were present to monitor the situation not even the trade unions representatives who agreed and negotiated SOPs with the authorities.
If we have a look on the ongoing coronavirus situation, we can clearly see that infection is growing at very high rate, specially the data of last 15 days is alarming, confirmed cases grew by 16,329 patients which is 111.75% and number of deaths increased by 355 which is 114%. The data shown is till 9th May 2020 by today the number of confirmed cases has crossed 33,000.After easing the lockdown in Germany cases stared to spike again (BBC News), cases are recurring in Wuhan China too.
Seller and Shop keepers must exercise SOPs and guidelines given to them. Use masks, hand sanitizers, and ensure shops and malls are not crowded, minimum numbers of allowed persons are ensured. Ensure to disinfect the shops and goods inside. Support the government and doctors in fight against coronavirus. Everyone among us should act as responsible citizen. Educate and council people around you. Despite the fact we always learn hard way.
Now the federal government is consideration the resumption of public transport intercity, Intracity and inter province, with defined SOPs. As we all know virus is growing exponentially, will it be wise and responsible to take this decision. At the moment we can safely say that remote cities and towns are yet not exposed to virus, resuming public transport will become one of major source of infection spread.
Federal Government once again failed to provide clear and effective strategy to provincial governments, and their narrative is based on economics and economy, I am forced to believe citizens are not the first priority of government. Federal government kept on making the lockdown controversial. Lifting the lockdown at this stage will certainly prove detrimental, cases are increasing in all parts of country. There is no precedent of ending the lockdown when coronavirus cases and deaths are rising by every passing day. Where health professionals and WHO are warning the governments to exercise caution while making decisions about easing or lifting the lock down. Government has fiscal space now, oil imports bill had reduced significantly due to reduction in global oil prices, IMF and World Bank loan installments are differed for a year, this fiscal space can be used to help and support the compromised segment of society, SMEs and other businesses. Deliberately exposing people to this pandemic is criminal negligence. In my opinion Govt must announce a strict lockdown with the consultation of health professionals so that virus spread can be suppressed. We must secure lives first and should be the top priority of any government.