CORONAVIRUS has spread to dangerous levels in India where the government actually focussed on the development of vaccine. As a result, India has become one of the world’s leading vaccine producers. Despite all the mobilisation and vaccine production, Covid has treated India rather badly in terms of the human cost of the pandemic.

Deaths are rampant. There is no space for patients in hospitals. There is shortage of oxygen and other medical facilities. There is also a shortage of space in crematoriums and cemeteries.

According to official figures, 300,000 new cases are being reported every day. About 2,000 deaths are reported daily. In the light of these figures, India ranks second in the list of countries affected by the coronavirus worldwide.

In Pakistan, we do not face a situation like India, but the effects of the third Covid wave are worrying. Thousands of new cases are being reported on a daily basis. The death toll is also rising.

Hospitals in major cities, like Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore, are full of patients. The government has reported that 90 per cent of the available oxygen capacity is already being used. It fears that the situation will be difficult to control even if oxygen is imported. The National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) has also informed about the gravity of the situation.

The report, in which the oxygen companies have warned that the situation in Pakistan may be similar to that of India, is also worrying.

The worst part of the scenario is that we do not know what steps are being taken by the government to, say, manage the oxygen supply situation. The public has been told that oxygen is available only for a few days or hours. But there is no news what steps are being taken to arrange oxygen. Similarly, we are informed that there is no room for more patients in the hospitals. But it is not known what the government has done so far to get out of this situation.

We have been facing this pandemic for the last one year. The question is: how many more beds have we added to the existing hospitals during this period? How many ventilators have been arranged? If a situation like India arises, what arrangements have we made for it?

It has become difficult for people to get two square meals a day owing to inflation. If there is no room in government hospitals, how will people bear the cost of treatment in private hospitals? Even in government hospitals, free facilities are not available.

Nowadays, Rs35-55,000 is required per day for treating a coronavirus patient at Nowshera’s government hospital in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The situation in other provinces is not any different either.

Educational institutions are closed, business and other social activities are restricted, yet the public is still not taking the pandemic seriously. The use of masks is far from being ideal. There is also a lack of social distancing sense.

The provinces have sought the help of army in enforcing precautionary measures and SOPs. Seeking army’s help during emergency is not unusual. But will the army now instruct the people to wear masks and ensure social distancing? This can be done with the help of the police or the district administration.

A few months ago, the ‘Tiger Force’ was launched with great enthusiasm. There was news also about its training. Where is that force now? Whatever we have to do now, we have to do it ourselves. We must now fully implement the SOPs to save ourselves and our loved ones from this pandemic.

Fahad Siddique
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, May 4th, 2021

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