Governor Punjab Ghulam Sarwar’s offer of assistance in setting up telemedicine helpline centres across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Gilgit Baltistan, Balochistan and AJK is indeed a welcome development. However, it is necessary that the offer is extended to Sindh as well. Reports in the paper suggest that over 70,000 people have availed the telemedicine facility across Punjab and the number is rising. It is highly likely that a high number of these callers would have had to flock to hospitals for guidance. This would have exacerbated the issue of overcrowding, understaffing and could have resulted in even further spread of the virus. The challenges are no different for hospitals in all other provinces. Therefore, it is important that the telemedicine infrastructure is replicated across the country. This will protect healthcare workers including doctors and nurses from unnecessary exposure and allow them to dedicate their limited time and resources towards essential functions.

Governments have a duty to protect healthcare professionals and by extension, their families, wherever they can. Diverting unnecessary traffic away from them ought to be a significant component of any strategy that is put in place. If this is not done in time, hospitals run the risk of becoming hotbeds of virus transmission and disease as witnessed in Italy.

The sort of cooperation and coordination that is required among provinces and the federal government to deal with this pandemic is unfortunately still missing. The growth curve of the coronavirus shows that Pakistan is yet to peak. To flatten the curve, provinces have no choice but to present a unified front. The provinces of Punjab and Sindh especially need to bridge the communication gap and refrain from one-upmanship at this crucial juncture. The PPP and the PTI will have to put their differences aside and must learn to work together. So be it Punjab’s telemedicine helplines or Sindh’s “swab and go” drive-thru testing – good measures should be acknowledged and swiftly replicated.