Fri. Oct 23rd, 2020

The world in the time of the pandemic; do we have the strings in our hands?

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Warda Batool


Even though the unprecedented corona virus pandemic has shaken us all to our cores, but we may
just be using the term loosely; the corona virus, albeit still an enigma, is not a stranger to the human
hosts. Previously, two corona viruses, namely SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, have already impacted the
world in recent past but did not wreak the degree of havoc as has the infamous SARS-CoV-2 which
causes COVID-19. Thus, it would be interesting to look at how the current situation, not as
unprecedented as we thought, can be brought under control and how can future pandemics be
If we think of the current situation from a creative lens, without disregarding the gravity of its
impact, it just might be another example of the manifestation of the butterfly effect; the idea that
what someone is doing miles away from us will impact us one day. This however has happened in its
most literal sense given the events that led to the start of the pandemic. Not only the start of the
pandemic but the end of the pandemic also depends on us human beings; the action of one person
leading to illness of another and even demise, the policy of one government shaping the
consequences in other countries, the work of one microbiologist working on finding a vaccine at one
corner of the world not merely impacting but saving the lives of millions of people. But how can a
country like Pakistan contribute towards mitigating future public health crisis and managing the
present one?
Everyone has their own two cents to give regarding what the developing countries need to do,
however, they are only short-term solutions to a problem that is here to stay for a long while. We
cannot keep on depending on research done in other countries and merely accepting aid, both
financial and medical, from them, we need to step up as a nation and follow suit. The lack of
research acumen in health science due to insufficient opportunities, subnormal hiring capacity, a
financially non-promising career or the general lack of support for scientific research in the medical
field are some of the factors that cumulatively lead to a country that does not encourage innovation
in research and inevitably culminates in formation of a nation that is unable to deal with a public
health crisis.
A number of solutions can be proposed for managing the crisis but the one that tops the list is the
provision of funds to research institutes in order to aid the process of vaccine development within
Pakistan. This would help the country in two ways; first, import of vaccines from other countries
would result in it being too expensive for the general population and second, it would not be
feasible to get enough vaccines for a total population of 212 million. Moreover, a pragmatic
approach is required that would include counselling students encouraging them to opt for a career
in research. Strategies of dealing with healthcare crisis such as the present one must be present in
the curriculum of health science management and research degrees so that the leaders of tomorrow
are well-equipped with the knowledge and skills required to avert future public health emergencies.
Also, subsidized training courses can be made available to students who wish to pursue a career in
health policy formulation and those studying to be medical doctors.
In addition to that, workshops must be held in order to train healthcare professionals to develop
skills that would equip them to efficiently manage the crisis situation. Along the same lines,

research-support units can be established at medical facilities that can facilitate the collection of
samples from patients for researchers. Moreover, a social health insurance (SHI) system on the
national level must be put in place so that the healthcare system collapse can be avoided in the
future and everyone, irrespective of their social standing, has access to healthcare services. In a
nutshell, the government needs to mobilize more resources for health, be well-equipped to estimate
impending health risks, provide equitable access of adequate healthcare services to the
underprivileged lot and work towards delivering a better quality healthcare overall.
It is quite concerning to realize that this might not be the last time that we are faced with a
pandemic; it has happened before, it stayed and it will most probably happen in the future given
that our human interaction with the environment is not decreasing anytime soon. We are exploiting
our natural resources and destroying the natural habitats of a number of species, thus forcing them
to relocate or come in contact with humans. This exploitation might multiply in future years given
that there are no checks in place for MNCs. In addition to that, the wet markets in China, that have
come under scrutiny for being the source of the virus, are still operating given that they are a source
of livelihood for many and cannot be shut down.

Thus, it looks pretty much like we are going to be living in a changed world for a long while so we
might as well buckle up for the rest of the ride that 2020 and the coming years are going to be. The
task at hand of managing the current pandemic and the fear of future ones must drive us to invest in
research so that we, as a nation, may be able to play our role in driving change in our national
healthcare system for the better.

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