KARACHI: Female health experts said on Sunday that women doctors and paramedics were proving themselves more effective professionals in treating patients of coronavirus while women leaders and heads of the states had also outperformed their male counterparts and showed decisiveness, resilience and humility in handling the Covid-19 pandemic.

The women doctors and paramedics saved thousands of precious lives while women-led governments steered their economies out of crisis much earlier than the rest of the world.

Citing the examples of prime ministers of New Zealand, Taiwan, Norway, Denmark and Finland, female health experts said women leaders took timely and bold steps well before novel coronavirus reached at their countries while men wasted the precious time and waited till the disease wreaked havoc on their countries, adding that women-led governments proved to be more people-friendly as compared to male-dominant regimes.

Paying tribute to the female health minister of Indian State of Kerala, K.K. Shailaja, who was previously a science teacher and received worldwide acclaim for her handling of the Covid-19 situation, they said in her leadership, Kerala succeeded in flattening the curve and registering perhaps the lowest death rate in the world besides a very high recovery rate.

‘Male leaders downplayed risks and wasted precious time in taking key decisions’

Women health experts were addressing an international webinar or online seminar on “Women and Covid-19: correlation and causation,” organised by the Pak GI and Liver Disease Society in collaboration with Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan in collaboration with Getz Pharma.

The webinar was addressed by female health experts and scientists from Malaysia, Australia, Thailand, India, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, the United States and Pakistan.

Speaking on the occasion, eminent health expert Dr Sharmila Sachithanandan from Malaysia said when coronavirus started spreading, male leaders downplayed its risks and wasted precious time in taking decisions, but a few female leaders and heads of state took bold steps, spoke to everybody and after listening to a variety of experts, took decisions that saved thousands of lives from New Zealand to Scandinavia and Asia.

In her presentation on “Women leadership and effective control of Covid-19”, she said the female health minister of Kerala, India, also played an important role and in her leadership, the state witnessed very few cases as compared to rest of the country while very few people died due to Covid-19, which is being praised all over the world.

“The exemplary leadership qualities demonstrated by some female heads of states and health ministers tell that we need more women in leadership roles in the world. As many as 75 per cent of the world’s healthcare staff is female, who are in the forefront of managing Covid-19 at healthcare facilities,” Dr Sharmila said but deplored that less than seven per cent women were in leadership role in the world.

Renowned Pakistan gastroenterologist Dr Lubna Kamani, who works for both Liaquat National Hospital and Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi, said as physicians, nurses and support staff, women were playing an important role in taking care of the Covid-19 patients in the world, including Pakistan where over “80 to 90 per cent of doctors and nurses are women”.

Dr Lubna Kamani highlighted the importance of women issues during the pandemic, saying there was a need to have such webinars frequently on these issues as there was less mortality in women as compared to men.

“It has also been seen that in the presence of women leadership, there is effective control of Covid in some countries,” she said and added that managing pregnancy in Covid era was also challenging that needed to be addressed.

Pregnant women more at risk

From Saudi Arabia Dr Majidah Abdulfattah Bukhari spoke on the “Risk of Covid-19 in Pregnancy” and said pregnant women were more at risk of contracting respiratory viruses and illnesses during pregnancy and added that Covid-19 was affecting pregnant women in the similar manner as other respiratory viruses.

She maintained that vertical transmission of Covid-19 during pregnancy was unlikely but in some cases, newly born babies acquired coronavirus infection immediately after birth and advised women to take more precautionary measures to avoid contracting the coronavirus.

Dr Aun Young (Ann) Kim from South Korea as well as other doctors including Dr Simone Guaraldi from Brazil, Dr Amrita Sethi from the US and others also spoke on different aspects of role of women in the pandemic and called for more proactive role for women in the crisis to save precious lives.

‘Men practise unhealthy habits’

Dr Bushra Jamil said men were more likely to practise unhealthy habits, including washing hands less frequently as compared to women, they smoke more as compared to women while women’s genetic composition as well as physiological difference make them lesser prone to Covid-19 deaths.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2020

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