After 3 months of the Covid -19 Pandemic our cases have dropped significantly. The stress on our hospitals, doctors & front line workers has also receded. The pressure on our intensive care units, oxygenated beds where Covid-19 positive patients were admitted has gone down. Pakistan is now one of the few countries who’s taken control of the pandemic. At the outset of the Pandemic, people were telling us to take the steps and measures that Europe and China took in the beginning stages. But we realized our conditions are very different from Europe and China. We understood that our nation has unique and complex challenges, poverty, densely populated areas, 50 million people living in slum dwellings. 70% of our economy is informal labor, meaning millions of workers are not registered on the books.
So we had to take a different approach from the rest of the world. We initiated the Smart Lockdown. We realized that if you do a strict lockdown and put millions of people under curfew it would be dangerous, counter productive and impossible. Because in the slum Dwellings there’s 7-8 people living in one room. People who live in these slum dwellings make their money through daily wage earnings and that’s the only way they are able to feed their families. If you lock these people down in their homes they would avoid Covid-19 but could die of starvation. For example, in India they imposed a strict lockdown and are still struggling with the virus. The strict lockdown can work for rich and upper middle class societies since they have food, resources and shelter available to sustain them. Today, the world is realizing that a strict and complete lockdown is unsustainable. So our team made this decision very quickly and made sure that the smart lockdown allowed our agriculture sector and food supply to keep moving. We also protected our economy by allowing laborers to work in the construction sector and we distributed 8 billion dollars of smart cash to the most needy families. Needless to say there was a lot of criticism targeting our decision of smart lockdown. It was a calculated risk because we had to save both lives and livelihoods so we took that risk. Thankfully with the grace of God that decision has been proven correct. The Ehsaas smart cash program which is designed to help the poorest in Pakistan is another key element of the smart lockdown. We distributed checks to the people by correlating with their Nadra ID information and mailing it directly to them. A huge amount of livelihoods were saved due to this critical initiative. Also in implementing the smart lockdown we did our thorough research and surveillance which helped us identify the clusters. We did several hundred lockdowns across the country. It was very effective and we were able to help flatten the curve. In comparison, India did a strict lockdown and their cases are still rising exponentially, the virus is spreading faster and their villages face pressure while after 3 months we have the lowest daily cases and deaths in Pakistan. We still don’t know much about the virus that we’re facing and we still don’t have a vaccine as yet. Through global data we have learned that even when cases are low, if you don’t take strategic measures they can sky rocket. For Example Melbourne, Spain & Iran.
Today, I ask all Pakistanis that if we have been blessed by God for flattening the Covid curve we must be smart in handling this virus and not make the same mistake that we did on the first Eid which exposed us to the virus and our cases rose dramatically. So this upcoming Eid and Muharram we need to be wiser and take the appropriate measures. The most effective tool that has been saving lives so far is the face mask. I advise everyone to wear it and own one. When you cover your face you dramatically lower the spread of the virus. And if you choose to go to the markets please wear a mask. If we successfully go through this Eid holiday without a spike we can then open up our other economic sectors. I understand that people are in difficulty and pain, restaurant owners are in difficulty, the entire service sector, wedding halls & tourism all face great challenges. But if we can keep flattening the curve during Eid and Muharram then we can finally make life easier for people. In addition we also need to open our schools and universities and we will review our data to see if we can open those aswell. I urge you to take this situation very seriously and observe the SOPs during Eid and Muharram. Pakistan Paindabad.
Translation by Sherjan Ahmad ( www.ssgwi.org )