The COVID-19 pandemic has led to uniformity in the concerns of people — and by extension the media — across the Subcontinent. Given the overlaps on various fronts between the countries — social, economic, demographic and in terms of infrastructure — the lessons from each may well serve all of South Asia.
Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s video conference call with the leaders of SAARC nations was broadly well-received, though it hardly received any coverage. Dawn’s editorial on March 17 only mentions the meeting in passing, saying only that. “A common enemy presents a window of opportunity for all countries at odds to put aside their differences — at least, for the time being — and take on the virus on a war footing”.
On March 20, the newspaper was far grimmer. On Wednesday, Pakistan recorded two deaths from the virus and “contrary to what appears to be the general pattern of fatalities worldwide, the individuals were well under 60 years of age”.
In addition, according to Dawn, the country has “entered the next stage of this pandemic when the first case of community transmission was confirmed in Karachi. That number is bound to rise, perhaps exponentially, with each passing day.”
The editorial calls for political unity and honest assessments actions, not platitudes, by those at the top — a lesson for many in the Subcontinent. Also, while acknowledging the hardships that COVID-19 prevention may lead to, it seems to recognise their necessity: “Rapid transmission of COVID-19 has been checked in China and South Korea through lockdowns. Such a drastic step, given the realities of Pakistan, would cause untold misery to the multitudes that survive on daily wages or those with small businesses dependent on a steady income to make ends meet.
However, there may come a point when the government decides it has no choice but to impose such a lockdown at least in some parts of the country.”