Why PTI government seems inactive to control coronavirus?
Imran’s government seems inactive and confused to contain the pandemic as the number of corona cases in Pakistan has spiked to more than 200, after 126 new cases were reported on Tuesday. One death has been reported in Lahore, Punjab today. The increase in coronavirus patients raises major quarantine concerns.
The federal government directed the provincial government of Baluchistan to set up quarantine camp at country’s Taftan border crossing with Iran, for screening of potential Coronavirus patients. However, it was not fair and wise of the federal government to burden the under-resourced Baluchistan government with the crucial task of establishing a quarantine. Constitutionally, it is the responsibility of central government to establish quarantine at borders and not the provincial governments.
Poor living conditions at Taftan
Taftan is a disaster as it has probably helped spread more infection than identifying those affected. People returning from the camp have described the quarantine as practically a nightmare. There is lack of doctors, hygiene issues, not enough bathrooms, water and medicines.
The camp is housing hundreds of people with poor living conditions as five people are sharing one tent. Amir Ali, a travel agent who was brought to camp on 3rd March apprised that the number is continuously rising because those released from the camp are not being screened.
Dubious statistics of the COVID-19 patients in Punjab
CM Punjab has kept mum on the ratio of those affected by the pandemic till now. Meanwhile Yasmin Rashid, Punjab Health Minister was quite defensive when she was questioned by Saeed Ghani about the statistics of Coronavirus cases in Punjab. He asked that how come it is possible that Taftan returnees to Sindh were testing positive for Coronavirus at over 50%, in KP almost 80% but 0% in Punjab. Even statistically, it is not possible that 60% of Pakistan’s population has shown only six cases. Yasmin Rashid kept using the word screening rather than testing, screening could be thermal scanning or a health questionnaire but definitely not a lab test. Out of more than 780 Taftan returnees to Punjab, only 50 were tested which is quite alarming. Actually most people are not being tested, unless they have travelled abroad recently or are displaying active symptoms. So the claims of Punjab government that it exactly knows what it is doing seem quite deluded.
Sindh government has actively taken measures to contain coronavirus as it has closed marriage halls, educational institutions, religious shrines, cinemas and banned public gatherings. The 291 passengers quarantined in Taftan were quarantined again by Sindh government in Sukkur. KP government has also taken possible measures to control the pandemic. All the schools and universities are closed in Pakistan till 5th April.
There has also been shortage in supply of masks and sanitizers which are required as a precautionary measure for protection against the virus. A smuggling scandal of respiratory masks has also surfaced which alleges collusion between Special Aide to PM on health, Dr. Zafar Mirza and Director DRAP, Ghazanfar Khan. In times of such uncertainty and panic, it is the responsibility of government to act in full force and vigilantly for ensuring the safety of public. Incompetence and negligence can lead to serious consequences at the moment. Crisis cannot be averted until everyone acts responsibly.
The writer is practicing lawyer and columnist based in Islamabad. She is keen interested in legal, social and political discussions.