Guatemala, Czechia, Moldova and El Salvador today have more coronavirus active cases than Pakistan. Just two months ago, only five countries had more active cases than Pakistan. This is some turnaround. Whichever way you look at it. Some will shout ‘testing’. Yes, the number of tests plays a role. And Pakistan’s testing is nowhere even near rampant.
Even the neighboring India is testing thrice as much in terms of population size. But tests per million is not necessarily the gauge you are looking for, when it is about adequate testing. Many countries have turned the tide with fewer tests. The WHO puts “at least two weeks of less than 5 percent of positive samples” as an indicator of outbreak under control. Another WHO adequate testing criteria states “we would certainly like to see countries testing at the level of ten negative tests to one positive as a general benchmark of a system that’s doing enough testing to pick up all cases.“
Now Pakistan has had five weeks and counting of positive share under 5 percent. Pakistan’s results are now averaging 50 negative tests to one positive tests. It is about time the fixation with “Pakistan is not testing enough” is done away with. Pakistan, to the surprise of many, is testing enough. And it has been a while at that.
Let’s move on to the turnaround itself. There is an assertion that Pakistan is one of near hundred countries that have fared equally well in the fight against the pandemic. If you are seeing it from the lens of cases and deaths, then yes. But that is a myopic view and ignores the larger context. The context around coronavirus is the infection rate, and the speed at which countries have controlled or failed to control the outbreak.
This is where Pakistan fares very tall. Of all countries having peaked at more than 20 percent of positive rate, only the United Kingdom has had a sharper bending and flattening of the curve than Pakistan. The UK is not as lucky in terms of mortality rate, which makes Pakistan an even better example. Chile and Qatar have had sharp declines too, but both have not reached adequate testing and aren’t anywhere close to controlling the outbreak. Spain is having a second wave – and Pakistan would surely not want to go that route.
Of countries with more than 100 million population, only Russia has had a longer period of flattening than Pakistan. And Pakistan’s is easily the best bent in that group. What happened? Time will tell in due course. But even if you do not want to credit the authorities for the turnaround, at least acknowledge the turnaround. The PM has put this down to divine intervention. Maybe, science will actually never tell what happened. But Pakistan has successfully ridden the first wave, better than almost all countries in the world.