Out of the ten countries most affected by coronavirus, COVID-19, excluding China and the USA, the respective population in its entirety of the eight countries is not even close to Punjab, one of the four provinces of Pakistan: Italy is 60.8 million; Iran 81.16; Spain 46.66; Germany 82.79; France 66.99; South Korea 51.47; Switzerland 8.57 million; and United Kingdom 66.44.

The world of 2020, shaken by the once-in-a-century pathogen, has many unanswered and unanswerable questions, confusions, ambiguities. All over the world, there is also an outbreak of hearsay, rumours, exaggerated reports, fanciful remedies, local totkas, and ludicrous claims. That is expected in a world of 7.53 billion people. They are terrified. They seek answers. They look for reassurance. And they need medical assistance if infected. Those who sell sensationalism and revel in divisions made for political relevance and personal aggrandisement do not have a place in the world shaken to its vulnerable, fragile mortal core in March 2020. Falsified reports exacerbate the sense of isolation and personal agony.

The work of Chief Minister Usman Buzdar is doing exactly that; providing medical assistance to those that need it. It is a combination of careful planning, meticulous execution, conscientious checking and improvement, and is strictly transparent. Buzdar is not a man of many words, fantastical rhetoric and empty promises. Working unobtrusively with his competent cabinet and team of advisers, he is following the tradition of the erudite and the farsighted: making his actions speak louder than words.

On January 3, Chief Minister Buzdar spoke to his cabinet about the coronavirus outbreak. That was a time when there was not any known fear of coronavirus reaching Pakistan. On January 15, he formed a special cabinet committee to take into consideration the logistical and economic aspects of combating COVID-19. In the middle of February, on Buzdar’s special instruction, an allocation of Rs 236 million was made to the health ministry to ensure hospitals and quarantine centres in Punjab have the required equipment to fight the virus. Later, that amount was increased to Rs 1,000 million. Currently, the Punjab government COVID-19 fund is Rs 5,000 million.

In Punjab, isolation centres and High Dependency Units (HDUs) have been established in 41 hospitals. In every district, one or two HDUs are operational. Three hospitals in Punjab – Recep Tayyip Erdogan Hospital, Muzaffargarh; Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute, Lahore; and the Institute of Urology and Kidney Transplant, Rawalpindi – have been fully converted into COVID-19 treatment centres. Recently, Chief Minister Buzdar made a special visit for a thorough assessment of the capability of the specialised hospitals.

Punjab is home to 60 percent of Pakistan’s population. Merely five days ago, there was not even a suspected case of COVID-19. Sindh, unfortunately, has the highest number of reported cases of 213; the cases in Punjab are 78, as per the last report. In the time of a global pandemic, all those suffering in Pakistan are Pakistanis. The affected are not the cold statistics of ethnicities and geographical identities. That is the message of Prime Minister Khan and CM Buzdar.

From the day it became a matter of concern in Pakistan to the last reported case in Punjab, the conscientiousness of Chief Minister Buzdar and his team that is doing its best, in the limited capacity of a years-long emaciated economy, is the driving force behind all the required steps within the global protocol of COVID-19 preventive and medical care.

In a recent meeting of an apex committee, the directive to close all tourist locations, including Murree, has been issued. In the first phase, all shops, restaurants and hotels will be closed at 10pm. In the case of further spread of coronavirus, a more stringent shutdown will be enforced. The final stage will be a complete shutdown, barring pharmacies, supermarkets and grocery stores. All educational institutions have been closed. If required, campuses of some colleges and universities will be converted into quarantine centres.

Every day, Chief Minister Buzdar heads a cabinet meeting for an updated review of the spread and prevention of COVID-19 in Punjab. On March 18, he visited the Dera Ghazi Khan quarantine centre.

The only chief minister of Pakistan who has instructed the use of the Punjab government’s helicopter in the COVID-19 war is Usman Buzdar.

Slowly, the world is uniting in its COVID-19-infected, compassionate solidarity. Pakistan must do the same. Personal biases, unfair judgments, and political point scoring must take a backseat when the agenda is national, regional and global safety of human life.

Pakistan is fighting the corona war with cautious hope juxtaposed with the best preventive measures and medical treatment. Pakistan must unite to do that. There is no other way to win. In Pakistan or anywhere else.