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Pakistan witnessing mammoth surge in COVID-19 cases, Brookings Institution blog blames it on PM Khan's inexperience

Pakistan witnessing mammoth surge in COVID-19 cases, Brookings Institution blog blames it on PM Khan's inexperience

India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms | 04 Apr 2020, 04:24 pm

Islamabad/IBNS: Pakistan is witnessing a mammoth surge in the number of COVID-19 infected patients and experts are now highlighting that it might be PM Imran Khan's  lack of experience in dealing with a crisis that has left the nation struggling against the disease which might eventually decay its already bleeding economy.

Experts have pointed out that Pakistan could not manage the situation initially and it escalated further with the influx of pilgrims from Iran through the Taftan borders, administration bowing down in front of powerful ulema (Muslim scholars), who refuse to shut down mosques and above all the faulty implementation of policies by Khan-led government.

"But the country also gravely mishandled the return of coronavirus-infected pilgrims from Iran, and its prime minister has waffled on messaging and implementing a full, federally mandated lockdown," Madiha Afzal, David M. Rubenstein Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, Center for Middle East Policy, wrote in her blog posted on The Brookings Institution, an American research group website.

"While many Muslim-majority countries, including Saudi Arabia, have cancelled communal prayers, Pakistan’s mosques remain open," she said.

"The country’s health system — with dated and limited public health facilities, and costly private hospitals inaccessible to all but the rich — is woefully unprepared to deal with COVID-19 and its influx of critically ill patients. Doctors lack personal protective equipment; at least one of the nine victims so far is a doctor," she wrote.

Afzal wrote, "The consequences of letting the disease spread further would be devastating. And Pakistan’s initial coronavirus response is already exposing concerning political patterns — including the powerful army asserting competence over the civilian government— that will persist beyond the pandemic."

Speaking about PM Imran Khan and his improper handling of the crisis, Afzal said: "Khan’s handling of the COVID-19 crisis reveals the limits of his populism, the precariousness of his position, and his lack of experience in dealing with a crisis."

On his decision to delay lockdown, she said: "Khan has continued to push back against the idea of a lockdown — arguing that a curfew, or 'last stage of a lockdown' as he calls it, would devastate Pakistan’s poor more than the virus could. His populist leanings are at play here. Khan inherited a debt-ridden economy that was just beginning to stabilize, and he doesn’t seem to want to shut it down (not dissimilar to President Trump, although Khan bases his argument on concern for the common man)."

"His government has already approved an economic aid package worth 1 trillion rupees to help Pakistan’s vulnerable in the wake of the crisis," she said.

She said Pakistan’s prime minister is losing precious time to act decisively.

"The provinces are picking up Khan’s slack. What Pakistan needs now is for Khan to back a lockdown wholeheartedly, including shutting down mosques, rather than hope for a miracle. The alternative is a disaster no country, least of all Pakistan, can afford," she said.

Till Saturday afternoon, 2696 COVID-19 infection cases have been reported in Pakistan.

The country has reported 40 deaths so far.

The game Pakistan's government is playing is "corona vs hunger", Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information Firdous Ashiq Awan was quoted as saying by Dawn News.

"Prime Minister Imran Khan is not playing a T20 match. He fully understands the fallout that will result from this heinous virus and he understands that we need to look at things in the long run," she said.

Doctors Plight:

Meanwhile, Pakistani media reports even claimed that house officers and postgraduate trainees, the front-line force battling the deadly Covid-19 pandemic, are forced to work at several hospitals without personal protective equipment (PPE), stipends and, in many cases, food.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, doctors told Dawn that they were facing a lot of problems at work, severely affecting their mental health as well as the quality of their work.

The worst affected health facilities include the government hospitals in Sukkur and Larkana, the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH) and the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) in Karachi and the two teaching hospitals, one in Hyderabad and the other in Jamshoro, attached with the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences (LUMHS), reported the Pakistan-based newspaper.

“We haven’t received our stipends for the last three months. The issue has been brought to the knowledge of the administration multiple times, but to no avail,”  a house officer posted at ASH told Dawn News.

Pakistan may witness massive job loss:

The COVID-19 outbreak might even leave the bleeding economy of Pakistan further deep into the crisis.

The Ministry of Planning has estimated that 12.3 million to 18.5 million people in the country will lose their jobs and the economy will sustain Rs 2 trillion to Rs 2.5 trillion losses in just three months due to “moderate to severe shocks from the coronavirus outbreak”, reported The Express Tribune.

Initial estimates show that in case of limited restrictions, about 1.4 million jobs will be lost, which are equal to 2.2% of the employed workforce. In monetary terms, the three-month wage loses will translate into Rs 66 billion, reported the newspaper.

In case of a complete shutdown, the government has assessed that 18.53 million people or 30% of the labour force will be unemployed. These people will sustain Rs 783 billion losses, the news report said.

Pakistan witnessing mammoth surge in COVID-19 cases, Brookings Institution blog blames it on PM Khan's inexperience

India Blooms News Service
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