I am extremely disappointed in our country’s current leadership, as they continue to prolong this senseless shutdown.
For the first time, I am seeing the effects of the lack of representation of the masses in our “democratic” system. The elite in the bureaucracy, media and political class have shown utter disdain for the interests of the poor by completely decimating their livelihood.
Over the past few days, instead of spreading panic, I have actually studied reports published by the World Health Organization (WHO), China, South Korea and other data, which does not support the kind of shutdown we are experiencing in Pakistan.
Of 191 countries in the world, less than 30 countries have engaged in some form of shutdown domestically. Over 150 countries have imposed little to no restrictions on the domestic economy, even though Coronavirus cases have appeared in over a 100 countries in the world. Many countries have imposed travel restrictions to prevent foreigners from entering the country while allowing the local economy to function.
Based on official data available to us, it can be said that the panic being spread in the media about the threat from this virus is the definition of hysteria
Out of the 29 countries that have imposed various restrictions on economic activity and everyday life, less than a dozen have placed nationwide blanket restrictions, such as those in Pakistan. Pakistan is one of less than a dozen countries, in terms of the severity and scope of its restrictions on economic activity.
Based on available data, provided by the joint report published by China and the WTO, the mortality rate is as follows: as much 0.2 percent for people under the age of 40 – that is if a 1,000 people catch this infection, under 40 years old, only two will die. Similarly, for those aged between 40-50, the rate is 0.4 percent or four deaths out of 1000 infected. It is about 1.3 percent for people between 50-60 years old. It is 3.6 percent for people between 60-70 years old. It is eight percent for people between 70-80 and 14.8 percent for people over 80. Even the data revealed by South Korea mirrors the above data.
The above data explains the high fatality rate seen in Italy. As much as 23 percent of Italy’s population is over the age of 65. Various data published so far reveals that around 70 percent of the people who have died in Italy from COVID-19 were over the age of 60. Whereas the mortality rate for people under the age of 40, even in Italy is 0.4 percent (four deaths out of 1000 infections).
When the above data is applied to the situation in Pakistan, it gives a realistic idea of the threat from COVID-19. Less than five percent of Pakistan’s population is over the age of 65. Average life expectancy for both genders in Pakistan is less than 68. That is, on average, people in Pakistan die because of various reasons even before they reach 70. Almost 90 percent of Pakistan’s population is below the age of 55, with more than 50 percent of the population being below 25.
The panic being spread in the media about the threat from this virus, based on available official data, is the definition of hysteria. In addition to the above data, various health experts have pointed out that the mortality rate in actuality is even lower then because many individuals who have this virus are not being tested, remain asymptomatic, display mild flu like symptoms and recover without ever registering or testing for COVID-19.
So far, over the past few weeks, Pakistan has registered less than 50 deaths, in a country of over 220 million people. To provide some perspective to this figure, in Pakistan over 400,000 children below the age of five, die every year due to various upper and lower respiratory issues, etc. The percentage is almost seven percent or 70 children die out of every 1,000 births, below age 5.
Yet due to the hysteria and panic created by the media, and a decision making structure controlled by the elites, which has completely disenfranchised the masses, we have engaged in a horrific shutdown, ravaging the lives of millions across this country, and have laid the groundwork for a deep recession over the coming months, which is going to wreak havoc in Pakistan.
How can any country justify imprisoning over 200 million people, given the above data?
The sad reality is that there is no meaningful quarantine or social distancing in the poor areas across Pakistan.
I am a witness of this fact in Karachi, as people continue to intermingle in the slums without any care for the COVID-19 virus, not to mention due to their desperate living conditions, the very idea of the quarantine is laughable. If the current virus is to spread in the masses – it will – irrespective of this shutdown, which is only being followed in elite areas. We have destroyed earnings of the masses, while providing them little quarantine benefits.
Given Pakistan’s poor health care system, the only defence the poor have against COVID-19 are demographics and a climate which might not be hospitable to the virus.
It is about time that the government of Pakistan let the people of this country decide if they want to continue this shutdown. Inform them of the risks of this virus and let them choose, whether they would take the risk of dying from COVID-19 or stay at home. Those who are high risk or want to stay home, can stay indoors but others should be given the opportunity to resume their life, instead of serving a prison sentence in the name of healthcare imposed by leaders that fly to foreign lands to treat their own ailments.
This message is a plea to these ruthless decision makers to immediately reopen the economy and end this farce, which has served only the elites at an unbelievable expense to the average Pakistani.