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Covid-19: Steps required at national level

Peshawar

March 31, 2020

COVID-19 is ravaging the world at a scale never seen before. Tens of thousands are dead and several hundreds of thousands are infected.

According to UNICEF, novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new strain of coronavirus. The disease caused by the novel coronavirus, first identified in Wuhan, China, has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) – CO stands for corona, VI for virus, and D for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’ The COVID-19 virus is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold.

It says characterizing COVID-19 as a pandemic is not an indication that the virus has become deadlier. Rather, it’s an acknowledgement of the disease’s geographical spread.

Pakistan has also been affected by it though thankfully not at the scale many countries are witnessing. Several weeks ago, at a virtual press conference by WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Executive Director Dr Michael J Ryan, and Technical lead Dr Maria Van Kerkhove from a boardroom in Geneva, one of the officials said the country has great capacity in public health.

“But there are also challenges,” he added. “Pakistan has a highly mobile population with mega cities and underserved people… So there is a great challenge facing Pakistan. But Pakistan has also demonstrated time and again with dengue, polio and other diseases how all of the government and society’s approaches can be made to work.” The WHO panel, as reported by the national media, stated that it was ‘impossible’ to say when the COVID-19 pandemic will peak.

At this time, there are several measures that should be taken at the national level. First, there should not be panic at any level. Yes, coronavirus could be possibly lethal but in most cases it is not. Second, greater coordination is needed among multi-layers of institutions to fight off the disease. The response at the state and society levels should be better organized and show dexterity. Third, there should avoidance of blame-game at all levels and among all provincial governments and institutions. Social distancing is an effective way to deal with the virus but it should not translate into sidelining of communities. Those who promote hatred and disharmony should be discouraged.

Fourth, instead of social media, which is unreliable, newspapers that generate correct and reliable news should be followed about the disease. Mails and messages with doubtful contents should never be forwarded and viral hoaxes, which have taken over the social media, should be discouraged.

We should maintain a national front and adopt a strong strategy and national solidarity to fight off the pandemic. Challenges like COVID-19 bring us together and the best out of us to support our collective survival.