Pakistan has confirmed its fifth case of coronavirus. The deadly disease – which originated in China and has become a global pandemic – is now actively present in the country and could see a rise in a number of cases over the next few weeks.
Most of the victims have a travel history to Iran, which has been the worst affected after mainland China. Pakistan has taken extraordinary measures to control the spread of the virus and has suspended all direct flights to Iran and closed border crossings. Educational institutes have been shut down in Sindh for two weeks. The biggest fear is that the PSL which will be held until March 22 could also be affected if things spiral out of control.
Pakistan is going through a pandemic that will test our patience and resolve, but it is also in such times of adversity that opportunist elements seek to benefit. As soon as the first case of coronavirus was reported, masks and other protective equipment disappeared from the shelves. Prices suddenly sky-rocketed and the Supreme Court has ordered a crackdown on mask hoarders and profiteers.
In Karachi, Rangers carried out a raid and recovered more than 70,000 surgical cases while police recovered 20,000 masks from another locality. When coronavirus was first reported in China these hoarders tried to send them there until the government banned exports. Health authorities failed to realise that there might be a local demand. Masks have either disappeared or are being sold at exorbitant prices.
Pakistan’s efforts have been appreciated by the WHO but there are also concerns that the number of cases is being under-reported to not create panic. Health authorities have clarified that masks are not necessarily effective and not everyone has to wear them, but still people have needlessly started buying face masks in frenzy.
It is regrettable that unscrupulous elements make the use of a tragedy to satisfy their insatiable greed. This was recently seen during the wheat and sugar crisis and now during a calamity. The role of the media is also crucial as it has often spread panic and deemed the coronavirus as the wrath of God rather than an epidemic. The media should act responsibly and respect the privacy of patients and their family.
Coronavirus has shown us the threats we face and how vulnerable we are as the spares no one and we can only face an existential threat when we unite against it. The nation’s resolve towards fighting all calamities will be tested more than ever before.