KASB Ray of hope: End of the beginning


The world is opening up – even UK – which is the worst hit in Europe will start easing the lockdown from Monday. More than 40,000 people have died in the UK due to COVID19 (more than 20,000 in the hospital – which is the officially tracked number). While, the death rate is coming down, it is still quite high. 627 people died yesterday. Despite this the PM Boris Johnson is expected to announce gradual easing of restrictions from coming Monday. Pakistan was never that hardly hit (see chart below for comparison of the UK and Pakistan). The first stage of the response to COVID is nearing an end.

There will be pressure on the healthcare system as thelockdown is lifted. There will also be likely to a rise in casualties. I hope the government in Pakistan has used the past two months to ramp up its healthcare infrastructure. Since 1947, Pakistan has in aggregate spent $29.3bn on healthcare (according to our calculations). In comparison, the aggregate spending on defence has been 7x higher. COVID19 will neither disappear nor are such health crisis one-off. I think there is a major need for catch up investment in healthcare (and education).

I think the media will have a major responsibility to show restraint. These are tough times and almost a feast day of bad news for media to spread around. The issue is that not only will that lead to serious mental health issues for the society but also threaten social harmony. Of course, the political opposition parties might desire this, but national unity is important in such time. It is no different from war times. In the UK they do weekly events like clapping for NHS (medics) where even the Prime Minister participates. Small gestures like this are important for spreading positivity.

The US seems to be starting another global crisis by escalating China tensions. I think President Trump is a very clever man and he is deliberately creating noise around China, in order to divert the media’s attention from COVID crisis. Nevertheless, the US-China shift is one of the biggest mega trends for the next decade. There is a complete supply chain shift. There could be opportunities for Pakistan in exploiting some of these displaced supply chain. So far, the beneficiaries have been Vietnam, Korea and India.

Google trend shows that the number of searches for COVID19 are now declining. I think this is a good indicator that we have passed peak COVID, not merely from a healthcare response perspective but also from an interest level. The new challenge is to deal with the rise in infection, emotionally bear the eventual human cost and prepare for administrating potential vaccine. As Bill Gates wrote in The Economist, it is only the end of the beginning.

We pray for the good health of you and your families.


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