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COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has been the highlight of the year 2020 and apparently, it doesn't plan to leave anytime soon.
The pandemic has caused mass political and scientific conference cancellations, worldwide quarantine, travel restrictions, social distancing, and many other unprecedented safety measures. When and how did it lead us to this point?
The first cases of SARS-CoV-2 were reported in Wuhan City, China on 31 December 2019. By January 2020, COVID-19 Coronavirus had reached Japan, South Korea and Thailand. Within the next two months, COVID-19 had officially become a pandemic affecting millions of people and causing thousands of deaths worldwide.
Coronavirus is a family of viruses that can be transmitted from animals to human beings. These viruses are known to cause illness ranging from the common cold (flu) to severe respiratory diseases. Many different types of Coronavirus are found in various animal populations that have not yet infected humans. COVID-19 is the most recent type to take a leap to human infection.
Analysis and studies show that the novel Coronavirus originated in animals, most likely bats. It was then transferred to other animals before reaching the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, also called "wet market", in Wuhan City.
The fast spread of the virus could have been resulted due to unhygienic conditions of the wet market and the fact that animals are kept in closed spaces. The animals are often slaughtered on the spot resulting in heaps of wasted body parts, blood and faecal matter.
COVID-19 infection has symptoms that are similar to that of a common cold. The patient has respiratory problems such as dry cough, shortness of breath, fever, and breathing difficulties. If not treated early, it causes pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and eventually death.
COVID-19 is highly contagious. It is easily transmitted from one person to others through droplets formed by the respiratory system of an infected person, often during coughing or sneezing.
To stop the spread of Coronavirus among people, the World Health Organization (WHO) stated a list of precautionary measures that have to be implemented in every affected country. Some of the major rules are as follows:
Practising these safety rules has helped several countries to overcome the coronavirus pandemic. In many countries, quarantine has been lifted as the number of cases has progressively declined over time.
In addition to these precautionary measures, financial and medical aid has also been provided to developing countries by the rich states to combat the spread of Coronavirus.
Up till now, 4 million cases of COVID-19 has been confirmed globally.
The increased mass social distancing and quarantine measures all over the world have given the worst blow to the economy and social development on a global scale.
The whole world is going through an economic crisis. Ban on congregations, travel restrictions, and self-isolation has decreased the workforce in all economic sectors. As a result, the rate of unemployment is skyrocketing.
Schools have closed down, which has caused serious disturbances in the educational sectors all across the globe.
National lockdowns across the regions gave airlines, factories, tourism and hospitality agencies, shopping centres, hotels and restaurants the worst economic shocks.
There has also been a steady decrease in the need for manufactured products as people are mostly staying indoors. In contrast, the demand for medical supplies has increased considerably. The food sectors are also facing high demand because people are panic-buying and stockpiling food items in their homes.
Apart from the socio-economical collapse, there is a significant rise in mental illness among people. A lot of people, in particular the young generation, is suffering from depression, anxiety and loneliness. As a result, suicidal deaths are being reported at an alarming rate.
In May 2020, Pakistan came face to face with a devastating COVID-19 outbreak. During the peak days, hospital facilities were overflowing with coronavirus patients all across the country. Benazir Bhutto Hospital, Rawalpindi had nearly 500 patients at that time. Today, the same hospital has zero number of COVID-19 patients.
So how did Pakistan managed to flatten the coronavirus curve so quickly?
The government of Pakistan took abrupt and timely action to stop the spread of Coronavirus by introducing smart lockdowns and spreading awareness through mass media.
Dr Faisal Sultan who is an infectious disease specialist and Prime Minister's special assistant on national health services has emphasised that Pakistan government's coordinated and coherent strategy and decision making on data-driven facts along with contact tracing and smart lockdowns helped ease the pressure
Pakistan's weather and climatic conditions also played a crucial role in the control of coronavirus infection. Furthermore, Pakistan has a significant young population. According to Dr Tahir Shamsi, the youth I Pakistan especially those having age up to 23, which represent an enormous ratio of the population, had unknowingly developed antibodies against the virus with the mass community spread of the COVID-19 in Pakistan."
The Pakistani nation is globally known for its generosity and hospitality. Dr Saima Zubair, a practitioner at Kulsum International Hospital in Islamabad, stated that the cash assistance and the lockdown enforced by the government including the charity programs by common people helped control the spread from the urban cities to rural areas that have a massive population and limited health facilities. This is the reason Pakistan performed better than its neighbour India despite having many similarities in the weather system and healthcare services.
All these factors, combined with the strict following of SOPs (Standard Operating Procedure) by the Pakistani nation, has made us one of the few countries that have successfully overcome the pandemic.
As of now, there are 531 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in Pakistan. Out of these, 424 patients have successfully recovered. The number of ongoing critical cases is 25 nation-wide, and 8 deaths have occurred due to Coronavirus.
95.2% of the total coronavirus patients show full recovery in Pakistan, proving that it has one of the highest recovery rates in the world.
Pakistan has performed nearly 4,000,000 tests up till now and has reported a steady decline in COVID-19 positive tests.
Several countries worldwide have started reporting more coronavirus cases each day than they were during the first outbreak earlier this year.
Europe: UK, Germany, France, Spain, Poland, Ukraine, Belgium, Luxembourg and Croatia have reported a sudden increase in COVID-19 positive cases.
Americas: US and Brazil have also reported a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.
Africa: South Africa has become the worst affected country in Africa and the top five globally for confirmed cases.
Asia: Hong Kong, Japan, China, Vietnam and North Korea are planning to implement lockdown once again as the cases have started to re-emerge.
Pakistan has yet to face the second wave of the pandemic as it has not seen any significant increase in coronavirus cases.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has warned that the onset of winter could result in the second wave of the deadly coronavirus outbreak. PM Imran Khan tweeted about this, stating that compared to some other states, Allah has been kind to us in Pakistan & spared us the worst effects of COVID-19. He feared the onset of winter could result in 2nd wave and urged everyone to wear face masks in public to avoid any potential spike. He also stated that all offices & institutions must ensure masks are worn."
The government of Pakistan has taken the necessary steps to ensure that the public follows SOPs. The second phase of smart lockdown and micro lockdown has already begun in Islamabad to reduce the effect of the second wave as much as possible.
Planning Minister Asad Umer stated that indoor restaurants and marriage halls were playing a major role in the spreading of the virus. National Command and Operation Center has also directed all provinces and federating units to crack down SOP violations in these places.
Apart from ensuring and implementing proper safety protocols, Pakistan also began phase 3 of a clinical trial for a potential COVID-19 vaccine developed by China's CanSino Biologies.
The second wave is believed to have a more severe impact on the world. It is crucial for us to follow the basic safety protocols at all times.
Practising proper hygiene, wearing a mask and keeping a fair distance while meeting other people are the primary reasons which made us successfully overcome the spread of Coronavirus.
Let us hope that we'll be able to combat the virus more effectively. The experience and knowledge we have gained over time might help us to overcome or avoid the second wave altogether.