By Hafiz Abdul Majid

Around 190 countries have so far reported corona positive cases across the globe. The first case of Corona Virus or COVID-19 emerged in the Wuhan City of China and within days its cases started appearing in as far as Australia, America and Europe. However, now the virus has reached almost all parts of the planet, Earth this time.

WHO on 20th January 2020, declared Corona Virus a global health emergency. Since there is no vaccine or known treatment for the virus, the epidemiologists suggest social distancing as the best strategy to avoid the virus.

Some European countries have resorted to the complete lockdown of the cities to contain its further spread. Social gatherings in most of the countries have been checked. Religious congregations have been limited. International airlines have grounded their fleets and air travel has come down dramatically.

A similar situation is observed in Pakistan. Most of the Corona affected patients in Pakistan have a history of traveling to oversees. The government of Balochistan did its best to quarantine and manage a large number of the influx of Zairean pushed inside Taftan Border by Iran. However, given the limited human resource, expertise and weak public health system in Taftan town, the government of Balochistan was not able to continue its efforts for longer. The zairins were therefore dispatched to their home towns in other provinces. As of 20 of April 7th, the total virus affected cases nationwide has surpassed the figure of 4000.

The federal government and the provincial governments have done well by announcing school holidays, closure of offices and shopping malls. Wedding ceremonies in wedding halls have been banned, and extreme measures like the closure of inter-provincial public transport and closure of eateries have been announced. However, these extreme measures – though taken in the public interest – may further create other problems, like joblessness, panic buying and shortage of food.

Apart from the measures to ensure social distancing, it is all the more essential that we take a holistic approach to the emanating problems and address them rationally. In this regard a few suggestions are shared for consideration to avoid further chaos and confusion in coming days. The provincial governments and district administrations , philanthropists, business community as well as general public as a whole can contribute their bit to improve the situation:

1.To begin with there is a dire need of provision of trained human resource ,  protective equipment , gears and disinfectants  in the already established isolation centers. The National Institute of Health/ Ministry of National Health Services , as well as WHO need to join hands and support the provinces according to their requirements.

2: In order to ensure availability of essential food Items , especially in Balochitan which is dependent on Sindh and Punjab for its food supplies , the border movement restrictions – if any – should be immediately lifted. PASSCO may arrange supply of wheat to the province.

3: There is strong possibility that many poor people would lose their jobs and would need our support to make both ends meet. It is necessary that such families are identified without further delay and necessary arrangements for provision of food for their families are made. In this connection the BISP under Prime Minister National Health program (PMNHP) had carried out a survey of such deserving families and the data is  still available with them. It will be a good idea to benefit from the available data and food items are provided to such families through district administration , philanthropists or other welfare trusts like Sailani, Edhi, Cheepa etc.

4:  To extend medical advice to the individuals who develop any symptoms of corona infection,  24/7 medical help lines at provincial and divisional levels should be established. Trained doctors should guide the patients telephonically on how to deal with the infection. Health departments and ICT Departments together can easily pull off this task.

7:  To further avoid any shortage of essential food items and price hike, the district administrations should take anti-hoarding measures. The, business community and retailers should be taken into confidence to not allow any mass procurement of food items.

8: To ensure ample availability of flour in the market and avoid any hoarding, it will be advisable if the provincial reserve centers are directed not to issue wheat to the flour mills in bulk. According to food department’s estimates, on average an individual consumes 0.34 kg of wheat a day. By simple multiplication of the total population with the per person daily wheat consumption we can easily determine the daily or monthly requirement of a population.

Corona Virus has been defeated by China, the rest of the world is grappling with the challenge. It is high time that we learn from the best practices of the world and take all necessary measures to keep our people safe and healthy. However, it is at the same time necessary that while managing the problem the provincial governments should ensure to minimize the suffering of the masses. A rational, pragmatic and well-planned strategy can help us achieve this goal.

The author has served as secretary health Balochistan and currently serving as secretary commerce and industries Balochistan 

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Quetta Voice is an English Daily covering all unfolding political, economic and social issues relating to Balochistan, Pakistan's largest province in terms of area. QV's main focus is on stories related to education, promotion of quality education and publishing reports about out of school children in the province. QV has also a vigilant eye on health, climate change and other key sectors.