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COVID-19: An analysis of Pakistan’s “Lockdown”

As COVID-19 continues to disrupt life in Pakistan, the debate over intensity of suppression and containment measures dominates the public discourse. Tabadlab convened a Policy Roundtable to examine diverse opinions on the efficacy of the country’s “lockdown” thus far and how to lock out the virus in the coming weeks and months.

Featured Panelists:

Maroof Ali Syed is the CEO of the Centre for Economic Research in Pakistan (CERP) with over 20 years of experience in entrepreneurship and investment.

Tania Aidrus is the Head of the Prime Minister’s Digital Pakistan initiative and an experienced technology and business leader.

Rashid Langrial is senior Pakistani Civil Servant and an experienced development practitioner.

 
Dr. Durr-e-Nayab is a Director at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics(PIDE) who specialises in Health Demography.

Haris Gazdar is a Senior Researcher at the Collective for Social Science Research and an associate fellow at IDEAS.

Discussion Summary:

Design
Our panelists shed light on how the plan to tackle COVID-19 has been formulated until now. What are the exact factors that constitute a “smart” lockdown? And how can it be designed differently going forward?

Timing
What could be the implications of easing the “lockdown” too soon and how difficult would it be to reinforce it if necessary? Is it possible that the comparative success of early suppression measures has brought about a false sense of security?

Perspectives
What are the factors and perspectives based on which policymakers are making crucial decisions? How far do our values, worldviews and politics inform how we respond to COVID-19? Our speakers discuss how these decisions might be based on selected views and indicators.

Priorities
Should preventing the loss of human life remain a sole priority or should economic concerns remain a significant part of the debate? Our panellists argue that the linkages between both might be far more nuanced than the discourse has allowed for.

Communication
How coherently has the government communicated its policies to the public? Has the mixed messaging regarding SOPs confounded the process instead of simplifying it? And does the term “lockdown” convey an inherently oppressive picture?

Testing
Our speakers make a unanimous case for an increase in testing capacity above all else. A blueprint for stratified sampling and differentiated responses is laid out, while emphasising the need and challenges of identifying asymptomatic patients.

Data
What steps have been taken to ensure an exhaustive compilation of data from the grassroots level to the highest decision-making authorities? How are agile systems of information built in order to receive and send credible data efficiently? How are decisions being informed by high quality real-time data?

Implementation
Our speakers argue here that the most comprehensive information systems could be rendered useless if the data is not utilised effectively. What is the best way to convert the input policymakers are getting into tangible, on-ground implementation?

Recommendations:

• No easing of “lockdown” until adequate preparations are in place
• Coherent messaging, simple SOPs and compassionate enforcement
• Increasing testing capacity based on the latest available innovations
• Testing based on stratified sampling, colour-coded zones and differentiated responses
• Continuous collection of data to inform our decision-making
• Rapid design and implementation cycles to respond to the latest information

Key Resources:

“Locking Out the Virus: Analyzing Pakistan’s Two Month “Lockdown” – Tabadlab

Dr. Durr-e-Nayab – Opting for a Smart Lockdown in Pakistan

Maroof Syed – SMART CONTAINMENT WITH ACTIVE LEARNING (SCALE)

Haris Gazdar – Lockdown Paradox

Rashid Langrial – Signal-driven Covid-19 Management Strategy for Pakistan