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March 31, 2020

Wake up please, worst is yet to come

Top Story

March 31, 2020

Nineteen years ago, 9/11 changed the world when 19 Arab hijackers crashed four planes in World Trade Centre New York and Pentagon in Washington. As many as 2,977 people were killed in a single terrorist attack. US started a war against terrorism from Afghanistan to Iraq and spent $59 billion just in 2002. US budget in war against terror reached $109 billion in 2020 but world is still not safe.

This year, the whole world is facing another deadly attack. It’s not from al-Qaeda or ISIS but from a pandemic called coronavirus. Attack of coronavirus once again changed the whole world in March 2020.

This pandemic is called COVID-19. It started from China in January 2020 infected more than 700,000 and killed around 35,000 people in first two months. Most of the people were killed in Italy but US is the most affected country where active cases of COVID-19 crossed 100,000. Scientists have warned that worst is yet to come.

According to a latest research by Imperial College of London, COVID-19 can kill 40 million people in the year 2020. Many experts say that number of COVID-19 patients increasing very fast in western countries because they have sufficient test facilities but a big number of patients are not detected yet in the neighboring countries of China and Iran due to lack of test facilities.

Number of deaths in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries are not very high till the end of March 2020 but fast rise in number of patients is alarming. It is not difficult to understand that why two nuclear powers of South Asia are unable to repulse this attack of corona. Yes, India and Pakistan possess nuclear weapons which can destroy humans and wipe out cities from earth but they don’t have vaccine which can destroy coronavirus. Same is the case with the only super power in the world. Coronavirus exposed the so-called power of US and other western nuclear countries. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of another nuclear power, was caught by coronavirus a few days back and he is now working in self-isolation.

China was aggressively trying to challenge the economic power of US since last few years but coronavirus questioned the power of both US and China. The only solution introduced by China to contain COVID-19 is a lockdown. Now all nuclear powers from US to India are following the Chinese model of lockdown. Initially Chinese were blaming US for starting a biological war against them and US president was blaming China for spreading that new virus all over the world. One Iraqi leader Muqtada Al-Sadr made a tweet on March 11 and blamed Trump for spreading coronavirus in countries that are hostile to US. Now the blame game is turning into embarrassment of all nuclear powers. All their stock markets have crashed. All their businesses are closing down. Only one business is flourishing. It is the business of funeral services.

Fact is that American and Chinese scientists have been warning the world about growing threat of coronavirus since 2007 but nobody listened to them. Thirteen years before the coronavirus pandemic began, scientists warned, in a study published by “Clinical Microbiology Reviews” in October 2007 that situation in China was a time bomb for a dangerous virus outbreak. This journal by American Society for Microbiology published the warning written by four scientists who are working with Hong Kong Universities. One of them, Kwok Yung Yuen is a Chinese who gathered most of the information through different Chinese sources. They clearly wrote that culture of eating exotic mammals in Southern China including Horseshoe bats is a time bomb. They warned the possibility of re-emergence of SARS and other dangerous viruses. SARS was emerged in 2003 from a wildlife market of Southern China and 13 years after this written warning coronavirus emerged from the same part of China.

American think tank Rand Corporation again warned in 2012 that pandemics posed bigger threats to US than terrorism but this warning was ignored by US policy makers who were spending more than $100 billion a year in war against terror and only $1 billion on fighting pandemics. Bill Gates warned in 2015 that a pandemic like Ebola outbreak was becoming a nightmare for him because it can kill millions of people in one year. His warning was also ignored. Lisa Monaco, homeland security adviser of President Barak Obama started some focus on the possible threat of pandemic but meanwhile, Donald Trump became President of the US.

A famous US magazine The Atlantic warned in 2018 that the “next plague “was coming with influenza. John Hopkins Centre for Health Security in US warned in 2019 a new virus was coming from China but Trump administration ignored the warning. John Hopkins experts demanded increasing just $1 billion in the budget for fighting pandemics. Trump thought only China may pay the price. He ignored the warning again and again. He was more interested in fighting media rather than COVID-19. Unfortunately, now the whole world is under the attack of coronavirus. I think both China and US are made some blunders. China became the birthplace of this pandemic due to its carelessness and US government ignored the warnings of scientists with some bad intension.

After the outbreak of pandemic, Trump injected $2 trillion in American economy to help his nation but the governments in India and Pakistan don’t have enough money to save their countries from the next disaster which is economic pandemic. The lockdown in many countries will cause massive unemployment and poverty. India and Pakistan invested more in purchasing of weapons rather than making strong healthcare systems. Now we all may pay the price of our war mongering. It’s a time now to stop fighting with one another and let’s jointly fight against corona virus.

I know it’s easy to write “stop fighting “but difficult for our leaders to stop fighting. Actually, their egos are bigger than our common problems. So let them abuse one another but at least they must divert some funds from other sectors to make s strong healthcare system. I am writing these lines after getting strong warnings from some top government officials related with health sector. These non-political officials privately told me that political leadership in Punjab and centre is not realising that without a 21-day complete lockdown, we cannot defeat this pandemic. Yes, this lockdown may hurt our economy but we can save thousands of lives. A top official of Health Department in Punjab warned, “People are going to fall in Punjab like leaves fall in autumn, if government is not waking up, let the people of Pakistan wake up”.

He said, “Worst is yet to come.” He claimed that he warned Punjab government in writing in early February this year but nobody listened to him. He said, "I don’t want to panic you but my written warning may become a political pandemic for this government soon."

Unfortunately, we are not ready to face the worst yet. We need to wake up because millions of people may die in next nine months of 2020 not just of COVID-19 but because of incompetent political leadership.

(Hamid Mir works for Geo TV @HamidMirPAK)