Irrational conclusions by Pakistanis in the face of coronavirus threat

The pandemic of coronavirus will end, but we need more commitment to tackle the pandemic of ignorance, the pandemic of irrational thinking, the pandemic of denial.

I wrote this blog for The Nation blog section originally and was published on their website on April 28th, 2020. Click here to read this on The Nation's website.

First of all, it is never a good idea to feel good about statistics related to disease and death whether it is higher or lower in any case. Sadly, that's not the case in Pakistan where I hear a lot of people in this self denial that our numbers are much lower compared to the rest of the world, hence we should feel good about it. We should be grateful indeed and hope these numbers remain as low as possible but in the light of these statistics, never let our guard down. Self isolation, taking care of personal hygiene and social distancing are protocols, no one can afford to take lightly in the given situation.

There are too many factors at play that can easily explain these low numbers, but people completely ignore those factors and assume things which aren't true. I had several arguments with my family on this subject. They believe our numbers are low because Pakistanis have stronger immune systems compared to people in the west. If that were true, why is it that the people of our neighboring country Iran have such insanely high numbers of infections and fatality rate? It is also not a very literate approach to believe such a non scientific claim. We might be immune to many viral and bacterial diseases because the people here who survived many bacterial and viral diseases due to malnutrition and lack of clean water might have developed immunity against those diseases, but to our bodies this novel coronavirus is just as alien as it is to the bodies of the Italian or American people.

There is also a belief that our genes are stronger compared to people in the western world. Again, that's just a myth. People who believe this only need to check demographics of Pakistan and then compare those to countries in the west, and they will know that more people die of infectious diseases compared to the western world. And immunity, though lasts only for few years, a more resilient gene should behave the same way even among those Pakistanis who are in the west, but from statistics we know that percentage wise, the rate of infection is much higher among Pakistanis in the west compared to their native population, and so is the fatality rate.

There's one thing that I do agree with, our statistics do show a lower number of infections and fatality rate. But there are a few factors at play which most of our people ignore. Compared to US or countries badly hit by Covid-19, the number of tests in Pakistan is significantly lower. This lower number of tests easily explains the number of infected people. But compared to the western world, if we compare the age demographics of Pakistan with those badly hit western countries, we have a much higher number of youth. The percentage of people above 65 years of age in Italy is 21.69% of their total population, but in Pakistan the percentage of people above 65 years of age is 4.56% and I think this is one big factor even the best news analysts in Pakistan have ignored. This is not something to celebrate, but a great dilemma that while we only focus on statistics, we forget that our senior population which is already very low percentage wise, is at such higher risk in the face of this pandemic.

I will not ponder much about the conspiracy theorists and those who are in denial of the threat Covid-19 poses because Pakistan is not the only country with such people and mentality. According to my observation, each country has almost an equal share of such people. A friend in Britain believes it's a test by the United Nations to give more powers to the governments to control people. Another friend in the US strongly believes it's all being done to weaken the Trump administration. Another one in India has started a YouTube channel that it’s a conspiracy to throw Modi from the government. Majority of my school's Whatsapp groups believe it's NOT A BIG DEAL, PEOPLE DIE EVERYDAY.

The pandemic of coronavirus will end, but we need more commitment to tackle the pandemic of ignorance, the pandemic of irrational thinking, the pandemic of denial.

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