E Magazine Issue 13 April 2020

Is Pakistan Ready For A COVID-19 Tsunami? Observations, Lamentations, Suggestions


Despite having a host of examples to learn from and clear head start to plan an effective response, Pakistan’s actions to contain the spread of dangerous COVID-19 disease have raised a lot of questions. But the big question is: Does Pakistan realize the gravity of the situation the world is in and is it itself ready?

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n the interest of the matter under discussion and keeping in view the enormity of this situation, we will not indulge in repeating history by reiterating where the first case of nCOVID-19 coronavirus was identified (1) and how and when it progressed to be characterized by the Word Health Organization as a global pandemic (2). Social media (particularly WhatsApp) has been a rather rich source of obfuscating information that has left some with genuine apprehension and concern but has also served as a referenced source for defiance particularly for people in the younger age group (3, 4). At the time of writing this manuscript (5), there were 328,800 confirmed cases of nCOVID-19 around the globe in 189 countries and territories and one international conveyance (6).


Data from Pakistan and its neighboring countries (7) is provided in the table below as an illustration that by the time you will read this article, these numbers would have changed drastically:

Pakistan has made a set of serious errors in judgment and overt vacillation in taking decisive decisions has amplified this crisis. First, we are not taking seriously the magnitude of this catastrophe


GLOBALLY 340,408 97,571 14,573 1,566
PAKISTAN 776 05 05 02
INDIA 332 23 05 01
CHINA 81,054 72,440 3,261 06
IRAN 21,638 7,635 1,685 129
AFGHANISTAN 34 03 01 01


In Pakistan, majority of these cases have been reported in the province of Sindh (333) followed by Punjab (225) and Balochistan (104). This table depicts the enormity of public health calamity that we are facing in Pakistan, which sits in a landmass surrounded by countries with active nCOVID-19 crisis. Of greater concern is that Pakistan has active bi-lateral economic ties with most of these countries which necessitates constant travel of people and goods across the border.

As communities, institutions and individuals, we need to switch from reacting to what has happened to instead taking bold action in anticipation of what is coming.

It was not until February 23, 2020, that Pakistan closed its borders with Iran (8) and on March 01, 2020 with Afghanistan (9).Even more disconcerting was the fact that Pakistan did not suspend incoming international flights until March 21, 2020 (10). It is confounding that against all logical arguments, Pakistan proceeded to reverse its decision and open its borders with Afghanistan on March 22, 2020 (11). 


A Series Of Errors

Pakistan has made a set of serious errors in judgment and overt vacillation in taking decisive decisions has amplified this crisis. First, we are not taking seriously the magnitude of this catastrophe. Given that the spread of this virus has entered into the “community” phase of dissemination, our response to this emerging public health crisis continues to be dominated by politics rather than serious and informed strategy. We did not learn from global experience nor did we totally appreciate the potency of coronavirus and its colossal impact on our community.

The services of doctors, nurses, and support staff in healthcare facilities who are taking care of suspected cases and nCOVID-19 positive patients without adequate protective gear need our most sincere appreciation.

To this day, the responses of our political establishment are at best myopic, indiscriminate and abominable, largely reflective of our culture which is dominated by management of crisis rather than implementing a set of policies that are informed by the experience and expertise of national and international experts and could potentially result in curtailing the damaging impact of the