Disappointing Provincial wars amid COVID-19
Since the start of this debacle of Coronavirus in Pakistan, there has been a distasteful conflict among the center and provinces regarding who has taken the worst or best decisions. Media has created a sensational yet undesirable competition between Murad Ali Shah, Usman Buzdar and Imran Khan. However, there is under reporting regarding how CM Punjab has been tackling the issue of Corona virus in Punjab.
Since the first case of COVID-19, Sindh government took the lead in announcing lockdown of cities in Sindh. Sindh government was followed by Punjab, KPK and Baluchistan. Federal government on the other hand remained neutral, focusing on other issues that could turn into crisis such as hunger, poverty and economic collapse.
There has been severe criticism on Punjab Chief Minister, Usman Buzdar, for lack of knowledge regarding the virus and following in footsteps of Sindh like a dummy. But as we enter third month of this virus in Pakistan, things have started to become clearer. Sindh government has continued to make bare announcements and less concrete steps to tackle the virus. Punjab government, on the other hand, is appearing to be making continuous progress in its fight against Corona virus and has successfully implemented several steps in this regard.
Early Collaboration with Private Laboratories for Testing
Unlike Sindh government, Punjab government allowed collaboration between public and private labs of Punjab from the beginning to conduct maximum tests possible. Pakistan still has very limited testing capacity till date. However, Punjab government has involved private labs including Shaukat Khanum and Chughtai Lab to conduct tests as per their discretion to support the government. This resulted in higher number of tests in Punjab during past month.
Moreover, on special request of Health Minister, Dr. Yasmin Rashid, Chughtai Lab agreed to offer 50% discount on their tests on daily basis for first 100 patients over the age of 60 years.
Punjab is leading the country currently in their testing capacity for COVID-19. The province will soon increase its testing capacity to 10,000 per day with rapid increase in BSL labs.
Increasing Healthcare Capacity at Remarkable Speed
Punjab government has been working relentlessly to increase the capacity of existing hospitals. There is also an increase in makeshift hospitals to cater to any large number of COVID-19 patients in the province. On instructions of CM Punjab, a 1000 bed makeshift hospital in Lahore was ready in 9 days. Similarly, a 100 and 40 bed hospital was established in Rawalpindi and Sargodha.
There are many field hospitals prepared in different colleges and universities as well. In Kala Shah Kaku, a 200-bedded Corona Field Hospital at Government College University and 1200 bedded field hospital is established at UET campus.
It will be unfair to not mention Dr. Yasmeen Rashid, health minister Punjab, who has been working in the field around-the-clock to ensure effectiveness of healthcare system’s response to the pandemic. The health minister has ensured that each district in Punjab is prepared to handle COVID-19 patients.
Separate renovated wards for COVID-19 infected children
A 50 bed emergency ward is recently renovated for children at Children’s Hospital Lahore and another 200 bed emergency portion will be ready soon for future cases.
Approval of PIDPC Ordinance
Leading other provinces in approving Punjab Infectious Disease Prevention and Control (PIDPC) Ordinance, Punjab government now holds power to take any action deemed necessary for protection of its citizens. These actions include government’s right to order private hospitals to accommodate virus related patients if needed, closure of any activity and institutions to prevent spread of disease and burial and transportation of dead bodies.
Establishing a Rapid Relief Provincial fund
Apart from the federal government’s Ehsaas program, Punjab government was the first to announce and a provincial relief fund of Rs. 10 billion for poor wagers and has already dispersed large sum of funds among needy people
Effective implementation of Fees reduction in Punjab
Education Minister Punjab Murad Ras, on instructions of provincial government, has been quite successful in enforcing 20% fees reduction in private schools of Lahore. Beacon house School System and City School, one of the largest stakeholders, have immediately sent new vouchers to parents with reduced fees. Schools that fail to comply with government’s instructions are to be penalized strictly by provincial government.
Disinfection and Cleanliness of cities
Punjab government has been proactive in its collaboration with local institutions to disinfect all public areas in Punjab. Rescue 1122, Water and Sanitation Agency (WASA), Lahore Waste Management Company (LWMC) and AlBayrak partnered with government to use disinfectant sprays and waste collection in Punjab.
Supreme Court Acknowledges Punjab’s Steps against COVID-19
The judiciary has been extremely critical of steps taken by federal and Sindh government to tackle spread of Corona virus. Recently, in a court hearing, both Punjab and KPK governments submitted reports on steps taken by respective governments regarding COVID-19. CJP Gulzar Ahmed appreciated Punjab Government on its efforts to contain the virus which validates the performance of Punjab government.
All provincial and federal governments still have a long uncertain road ahead of them in fight against corona virus. We can hope to come out of this provincial warfare and appreciate any good steps taken by our respective governments.