As the world is being overwhelmed by the coronavirus (COVID-19), questions are being asked from the governments about their preparedness for this pandemic. In the era of globalisation and liberalisation, the amount of damage COVID-19 has done to the economies around the world is unimaginable. Its economic cost has surpassed the impact of all the epidemics of the past. But, compared with the limited medical facilities available in the early 20th century, are we better prepared to handle this crisis today, or has its magnitude dwarfed all our emergency preparations?
For any disease of this magnitude, we can only have emergency responses. We can have our mock drills but the real litmus test comes when we are face-to-face with it. We know there are standard drills for earthquakes such as: leave your house or offices and run for open space or get under a strong table to keep yourself safe.When the COVID-19 disaster struck us too, we got some guidelines to follow: Maintain a minimum of two metres distance while shopping, don’t go for social gatherings, wear masks when going outside and seek medical advice for symptoms like cough, fever, sneezing etc.
Sadly, despite the clear instructions, we failed in our duty and created an unimaginable trouble for our healthcare system. Finally, the ticking time bomb exploded overwhelming each one of us. Irresponsible people disobeyed all safety instructions, and took it as a joke.
We can build a quarantine centre overnight but we cannot construct a hospital immediately. A medical professional takes five years to become a full-fledged doctor or a nurse takes three and a half years to complete their course. Needless to say, specialisation takes additional four to five years. Under such circumstances, they cannot be hired instantaneously. You can buy medicines, ventilators, masks and other medical equipment to boost your health infrastructure, but you cannot build a completely new hospital to cater to emergencies. In fact, after the crisis is over the upkeep and maintenance of the entire set up will cost more than what it did to build the infrastructure.
But we are the biggest culprits that despite strict instructions, we did not follow the guidelines and continued to mingle disregarding all safety instructions. To deter the public from going outside without masks, the fine was hiked steeply from OMR20 to OMR100. Can’t we as responsible citizens, and for our own sake, help the government win this battle? If we had followed the rules properly, infections would have been contained by now, and the police would not have to man checkpoints to keep an eye on wanderers.
The pandemic has spread from city hotspots to the interiors of the country only because of some irresponsible people who flouted all norms. They have done irreparable damage to the country’s economy and created an additional burden on the overstretched health infrastructure of the country.
Together we can and we will defeat this disease with our collective effort but we will have to remain vigilant. We should not lower our guard and let slackness creep in. The choice is before us. Longer the lockdown, greater will be the stress on physical and mental health, and the economy. Many countries have overcome this pandemic with their will power and strict regulations. An oasis of peace and tranquility in the MENA region, we hope Oman will achieve its projected growth and glory with the concerted and collective efforts of all.