COVID-19: Rich Man’s virus amid economic instability

Government of Pakistan needs to make timely decisions.

Necessary precautions and aids are need of the hour to tackle the widespread novel Coronavirus, identified as COVID-19 (or SARS-CoV-2), however, making the test kit easier to access is a greater need.

According to reports of Baaghi TV, the basic COVID-19 test required for confirmation of infection is available across Pakistan for (PKR) Rs. 7,900/- which given the state of Pakistan’s economic instability is not a measly amount. Rather, it is a highly expensive and largely inaccessible means of protection.

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In a state like Pakistan which is globally considered to be a third-world country, how can a person from the lower class expect to get such a test done? When they do not have access to even the most basic necessitates. An individual earning Rs. 16,000/- to support a family of five or six people cannot be expected to get this test done. It is not social isolation rather, it is mass murder for the poor and underprivileged stratum of society by the hands of the torchbearers and governmental body. Pakistani authorities need to immediately take charge of the issue and make the test more accessible.

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If the cost of the test is not subsidized, there is no hope of sustaining the state’s economy against a greater crash. No society can sustain itself with the elite class alone. A cohesive society takes shape when people from all walks of life and/or social standings contribute to the socio-politico-economic development of the country which cannot be ensured at a time when the world is inclined towards the control of the novel virus unless basic health facilities are provided to all members of society without profit of any individual organization, business and/or state body, respectively.

Leading pharmacies and laboratories across Pakistan are manipulating the situation for a meager profit. Most institutions and health facilities either claim a shortage of protective gear such as face masks, gloves, sanitizers et cetera or they over-charge the public by claiming the victim. Why is it that the government is not taking notice?

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A basic hand-sanitizer prior to the outbreak was easily available for public use at an approximate Rs. 100 which is currently being sold at almost Rs. 300. Face masks and/or gloves are either not being sold or in cases where they are, the consumers are making the product accessible at almost three times the manufacturing price.

It is to be noted that so far cases of people from the upper or upper-middle class(es) are surfacing, especially those who have been returning from their foreign trips who can surely afford the almost Rs. 8,000/- test however, how can we contain the spread of the virus if the lower or lower-middle classes do not come forward for fear that they would not be able to support their families if they get the test done. While, I am personally well enough to afford the test for myself, I feel it is still an injustice against those who cannot.

Furthermore, although the government is working to ensure that the public maintains social isolation or self-quarantine if they feel they have been infected, how can we the poor class be expected to stay at home without guarantee of basic requirements such as: food, clean water, shelter, proper sanitation, or in case of contamination, affordable healthcare?

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How many of us as a society can honestly say that we can or will continue to pay our lesser privileged employees such as office workers and/or custodial staff in the public and corporate sectors? Or even domestic help if they are unable to show up for work? This flawed system of “ignorance is bliss” is coercing the lower classes towards even more financial trouble than before. Even in cases where the government administered hospitals and medical institutes may provide the required facilities to them, the added stress of long and almost never-ending ques will make it harder for the lower classes to acquire treatment.

The government of Pakistan needs to subsidize the test with immediacy to make it available for all. Otherwise, COVID-19 will increasingly be referred to as the rich man’s virus who can afford the treatment at the expense of the lives of the poor class.

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Stay tuned to Baaghi TV for more updates.

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