By Fazal Amin Beg
Taking-off its flight from the Wuhan [pronounced as Wukhan] city of Wubei province of China, Coronavirus or COVID-19 has been targeting, terrorizing and devastating the human population across the globe since December 2019. So far more than 1.8 million people have reportedly come under the monstrous catastrophe. No continent dwelled by human population spared in the face of the prevailing type of Coronavirus. Although, more than a hundred thousand people lost their precious lives by now, a significant number of human fellows also recovered from COVID-19. China is taken as a good example for a high number of recoveries from this pandemic disease while United States of America stands as a worst example contextually.
The infected cases of Coronavirus in Pakistan is though not much alarming due to various factors, recovery is also not that much encouraging when we keep into accounts the number of tested people but it’s interesting to note that Gilgit-Baltistan Region (Northern Pakistan) is seen or observed in a wonder when the infected cases reached more than two hundred and twenty only and the recovery cases significantly high (more than 60%).The reasons may be explored and debated in various contexts as the region is so poor in health infrastructure and other related facilities on the one hand; and the prevailing crisis in genuine political leadership on the other under the strong and dictatorial bureaucracy, on the other, to holistically address the unseen but strongest enemy of the fellow human beings.
Urdu News, Islamabad (an online newspaper) has tried to look at the phenomenon from a birds-eye view as it needs more robust and systematic studies. The report by Basheer Chaudary on Gilgit-Baltistan Region might raise many questions in an idealistic manner but it must be appreciated, encouraged and appraised against the wonderful initiative on the subject and region. As I was one of the respondents of the initiative (and many logical questions emerged in my mind), I thought to translate the interesting report in English and internationalize the voice because the issue is of global nature as a pandemic disease.
The report on COVID-19 on Gilgit-Baltistan has been graciously and compassionately read by Zahida Parveen khan in her sweet voice and was facilitated by my friends from abroad and at home. I’m thankful to Professor Dr. Hermann Kreutzmann (Free University, Berlin), Ali Rahmat Musofir of Hunza Valley, Farman Karim Baig of Pamir Times, Doctors of Gilgit-Baltistan Region, Pir Saeed Tajik and Saleem Hayder for their facilitation in providing professional maps and some related pictures. I owe indebtedness to my nephew Mazdak Jibran Beg for his ever technical and other related support.
In the voice of Zahida Khan, you can listen the original Urdu report of the Urdu News, Islamabad , on the following link of Eagles World Channel:
If you are interested to read the original Urdu text, you may click on the following link of www.urdunews.com:
From here onward, you will follow the English translation of the Urdu report prepared by Basheer Chaudary of Urdu News, Islamabad.
Why is the Ratio of Patients Recovery from COVID-19 Superior in Gilgit-Baltistan Region?
Report by Basheer Chaudary for Urdu News, Islamabad on April 15, 2020
At present, the number of recovered patients infected out of COVID-19 in Pakistan’s administered Gilgit-Baltistan Region is 66%, which is ranked by now second at world level after China. across the globe, more than 1.866 million people got infected and more than 100,000 people lost their lives in the face of Coronavirus. Besides, more than 434,00 people recovered from the disease, which makes itself 23% when compared with the total infected people. A huge amount of recovered people belong to China, which makes itself 94.52 % out of the total Chinese infected patients. The least recovered percentage of patients are evidenced in the United States of America, which is just 5.82%. The ratio of recovered COVID-19 patients in Pakistan is more than 20%; and within Pakistan administered Gilgit-Baltistan (as a unit or province), the ratio of recovering patients is 66%.
The first case of Coronavirus in Gilgit-Baltistan was reported on March 17. After that, so far, 1,488 tests have been carried out and out of them 224 patients were diagnosed as COVID-19, out of this figure, 149 patients recovered and have returned to their homes; while only 75 patients are in the isolation centers, though reports of some patients are still awaited. Due to the Coronavirus, the first doctor named Osama and a paramedic staff (Malik Azhdar) from Gilgit-Baltistan lost their lives while extending treatment to the related patients. Nonetheless the attention was grabbed effectively on the subject matter.
According to Muhammad Ali Randwa, home Secretary of Gilgit-Baltistan, the main factor of leading towards recovery of the patients was the effective steps taken and arrangement made for the pilgrims of the region by the administration. For the pilgrims during their return to the region, 1,133 (one thousand one hundred and thirty-three) rooms of hotels were reserved and they were thus accommodated therein. Those people were thus provided better environment than their homes. To illustrate for one person, there was one room facilitated by a bathroom, WIFI and certified/standardized food. The children of pilgrims were provided toys and books around their interest in addition to their mental and physical care. Due to such actions, their immune power increased and their symptom of positive coronavirus changed towards negative. Muhammad Ali Randawa maintains that strict lockdown was made, inter-district travel was banned and the social distancing was ensured. In this connection the local population also cooperated fully with the administration. Shielding against the Coronavirus and having high rate of recovered patients in Gilgit-Baltistan is thus a great success story.
Although, the administration of Gilgit-Baltistan claims and terms such measures as a success story, Dr. Sharif Astori (belonging to Gilgit-Baltistan) analyzes the phenomenon in other ways. While talking to Urdu News, he said: “Well, keeping in view the ratio of demography of the region, Gilgit-Baltistan is undoubtedly on top with regard to recovery of patients, but the arrival of pilgrims and preacher groups as well as people of the region living in other parts of Pakistan, the local community came across the Coronavirus. In the beginning, there was no facility of testing the patients as the hospitals are not of the desired or required standards. Arrangement of hotel rooms for the patients were made very late nevertheless, a huge number of patients recovered. These are because of the way of life and customs of the local community that they have got a developed immune system in a natural order. He further pronounced that the way the pilgrims, preachers, students and labors entered and reached Gilgit was so alarming. For instance, if people of other provinces had performed in such manner when the pandemic had victimized them in such manner, the situation would have turned around (deteriorated alarmingly).
Besides, another factor that proved to be so effective and important was the geography of Gilgit-Baltistan, its scattered population, education and awareness in the society, and religious and social harmony. The international borders of Gilgit-Baltistan region with China and Afghanistan is ineffective (closed). On the other, entering of people from India via Kashmir is also not possible. Fazal Amin Beg, an anthropologist (of the region) discussed with the Urdu News that after the Coronavirus newsbreak, the local educated youth of Gojal sub-division within Hunza district proved their prudence and farsightedness and they demanded the Government to close down the Sino-Pakistan border (via Khunzhrav Pass). Closure of the international borders with China and Afghanistan proved to be highly effective. The only land route with Pakistan was the Karakoram highway (KKH) and the aerial route that connected and facilitated communication of the travelers with Gilgit-Baltistan region but the Coronavirus travelled to Gilgit-Baltistan along with the local community members as pilgrims coming from Iran. He specified that the education and awareness among the local population, activeness of the local civil society organizations and religious pluralism also positively played their roles and led towards encountering the Coronavirus. Despite the inappropriate behavior of the Federal Government, the lockdown policy of Gilgit-Baltistan Region proved to be successful. However, with regard to offering the Friday prayers, the Government is still facing genuine challenges (in Gilgit) if in this regard, effective measures were taken the success story could transform into failure.
It’s noteworthy that the President of Pakistan, Dr. Arif Alvi, the Special Advisor for Health, Dr. Zafar Mirza, Chairman National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and other high officials also visited Gilgit. Though, there is the Government of Muslim League (N) in Gilgit-Baltistan, the president of Pakistan applauded the local government and administration for their effective measures on COVID-19. In the same manner, Dr. Zafar Mirza also appreciated the performance of Government of Gilgit-Baltistan in a press conference.