Listen to your Prime Minister, Pakistan

There is no vaccine for the novel coronavirus. There will not be one for months, perhaps a year. Once the vaccine is found, its production will take a long time. Once the production is done, its global distribution for the 7.59 billion humans of the Earth will take a longer time. The world is waiting with a breath that is ragged. The exhaustion is multi-layered, mollifying fear so cleverly it is as if the coronavirus is no longer terrifying.

Do not for one breath fall for that. The coronavirus is more terrifying than anything humans of the Earth could ever imagine an invisible microbe to be even in their most imaginative post-apocalyptic fiction.

Since the last week of March, I have been writing on the pandemic of the coronavirus so constantly that all day long I get COVID-19 notifications from YouTube and Google, making me frequently updated of its daily changing dynamics. What stuns me in my very limited humanity is the exponential increase in the global number of confirmed cases and deaths every week.

As the economies of the most developed, semi-developed, almost-developed, and developing countries teeter under the unavoidable blow of local and global lockdowns, and healthcare systems–very advanced like that of the USA, Germany and China, and emaciated ones like that of Pakistan and India–do much more than their capacity to treat the growing number of COVID-19 patients, it is the weekly increase in cases that has reiterated my weeks-old realisation: COVID-19 is going to be the new dystopian normal of the world of 2020 and beyond.

On April 1, the number of global confirmed cases was 846,000. The number of dead was 41,000.

On April 1, the number of confirmed cases in Pakistan was 1,717. The number of dead was 21.

On April 15, 2020, the number of global confirmed cases was 1,981,239. The number of dead was 126,681.

On April 15, the number of confirmed cases in Pakistan was 6,217. The number of dead was 113.

On May 6, the number of global confirmed cases was 3,709,800. The number of dead was 259,695.

On May 6, the number of confirmed cases in Pakistan was 23,655. The number of dead was 545.

As I write on May 15, 21:58 Pakistan Standard Time, according to John Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Centre, the number of global confirmed cases is 4,498,579. The number of dead is 304,631.

Just one day ago, on May 14, the number of confirmed cases was 4,317,061. The number of dead was 294,997.

In 24 hours, there has been an increase of 181,518.

On May 14, the number of cases in Pakistan was 35,384. The number of dead was 761.

On May 15, the number of cases is 38,437. The number of dead is 822.

It is terrifying, very, very terrifying.

The World Health Organisation has a daily global monitoring of the dynamics of the coronavirus. Mark Ryan, WHO’s emergencies expert, stated on May 14: “It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away. HIV has not gone away, but we have come to terms with the virus. I think it is important we are realistic, and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear. I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.”

Fully endorsing words of WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom, “The trajectory is in our hands, and it’s everybody’s business, and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic,” I believe the coronavirus prevention is very much how all of us–personally, nationally, collectively, and globally–decide to behave from now onwards.

Most lockdowns, including that in Pakistan, have been eased down. A lockdown-ed universe is a theoretical ideal. Impossible it is to ignore the reality of the world in which, according to the World Food Programme, “821 million people go to bed hungry every night all over the world, chronically hungry. …That means 135 million people on earth are marching towards the brink of starvation… more people could potentially die from the economic impact of COVID-19 than from the virus itself.”

Human resilience for acceptance of the inevitable, spirit against the most debilitating, and perseverance against all odds, from invisible microbes to land-altering tsunamis, are so immense that life continues notwithstanding the most challenging odds. Coronavirus and its daily multiplying cases, human beings will learn to adapt to the new world–falteringly, shakily, conditioning themselves to the new rules, finding the best possible ways to survive without losing much of their humanness. The safety measures are there. Now it is up to the humans of the world to decide: to be COVID-19-free or not? To live or not to live?

It is time to pay attention to Prime Minister Imran Khan when, on May 15, he talks about “…what we [government] hope from the public… It is for the entire nation. Because if corona spreads, we are aware that its direct effects is the disease and the indirect effect through lockdown is on the entire nation, especially our poor people. That is why people must be advised. The opinion-makers, artists, columnists, media-persons, religious scholars, I’m saying this to all of you: it is everyone’s responsibility to inform the public that it is for the good of all of us. This [easing of] lockdown will only be successful when our citizens have the self-realisation that it is their responsibility, that it is for their good.”

And I add: my dear Pakistanis, be safe and protect your life and of others. The safety guidelines are simple: thorough and frequent washing of hands; sanitisation of hands; mandatory wearing of masks; minimum number of people in any closed place; minimum physical distance of six feet from one another; no public congregation; shun packed places; maintain social distancing.

Do NOT forget for a second: safety of your life is, literally, connected to you maintaining physical distance away from one another.

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