- In a study by Spark Labs, it has been shown that Pakistan is an excellent example of effective measures being used to contain the spread of the pandemic.
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In a study by SparkLabs, it has been shown that Pakistan is an excellent example of effective measures being used to contain the spread of the pandemic, and poor-friendly economic policies to soften the impact of a global crisis.
The study clarifies that it is not a medical, pharmacological, or epidemiological review, and that it examines the leadership actions and technology utilisation that drove the positive outcomes, in an effort to understand the tactics and strategies used to attain that result.
In terms of the awareness initiatives to inform the population, both provincial and federal governments led social media driven campaigns through the use of influencers to educate the populace. The government adopted a realistic national-level strategy of targeted and short lockdowns (termed as a “smart lockdown”), which managed to balance health imperatives and economic needs - especially through the initiation of the “Ehsas Program”, which oversaw aid programs, through cash distributions amounting to 144 billion rupees across 12 million families. The economic alleviation measures also included financial support programs for businesses to facilitate economic recovery.
Pakistan’s success in managing the crisis was also attributed to the formulation of a national action plan, which ensured that inter-provincial coordination was more effective, and that all policy directives were communicated through the National Command Operation Center (NCOC), through a steady civil-military partnership.
The effective integration of technology in the national strategy also granted positive outcomes, as the government partnered with private specialist companies to create a Medical Device Registration Database (MDRDB), to develop an overhauled inventory management system, and to carry out monitoring. Furthermore, to avoid hoarding of essential medical supplies, the government adopted a centralized national purchasing mechanism for medical equipment (including ventilators), and protective gear, and an industry collaboration for the domestic production of sanitisers and PPE - to ensure that the market supply would be managed.
The study highlights certain key transferable lessons from Pakistan’s management of the pandemic. Clarity and consistency from the leadership, especially from Prime Minister Imran Khan, played a substantial role in developing a clear template for managing a public health crisis of this nature and scale - while also keeping the economic ramifications in mind, especially on the poorest segments of society. The government was clear in their understanding that “one size does not fit all”, as a strategy that was a success in another country may not prove to be successful in the context of Pakistan, as tailor-made strategies (such as targeted lockdowns) were used to curb the spread of the virus. The government’s fluid response allowed them to change tactics, as the circumstances changed, therefore avoiding being slow or static in their approach.
Pakistan's management of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country has been lauded, more recently by former U.S Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, who stated that if the United States adopted the same approach, they would have saved $10 trillion in economic losses.