A Reuters representational image The writer is a member of The Express Tribune team. He can be reached at fahim.hussain@tribune.com.pk

They are very truly our superheroes. Doctors, nurses and paramedics, not budging an inch from their duty, are immersed in healing the world from the wounds caused by the novel coronavirus. They are rendering selfless services in dealing with the exigencies of the reigning health crisis. The world needs their time, guidance and services more than ever in order to contain the spread of the deadly virus and build strategies to go about a new normal.

According to official figures, more than 50,000 people in Pakistan have been infected with the virus till date. While around 12,000 people have recovered from the disease in what is indeed a matter of hope and satisfaction, more than a thousand have lost their lives to it. The figures do show a spike in the coronavirus infection in the wake of an ease in the countrywide lockdown. Covid-19 is thus threatening to emerge as a bigger crisis in the country — something that would primarily test the persistence of our medical professionals, the frontline fighters in the war against the virus.

That nurses form the first line of defence in this fight is no overstatement. From moving a stretcher to maintaining the healthcare record, nurses are the first ones to assist the patients. The nature of their duty expects them to remain in close proximity with the patients. And this is what exposes them to the danger of contracting the rampaging coronavirus more than anybody else. This important role has been highlighted this year on the International Nurses Day on May 12 with a strong message of ‘Nursing the World to Heal’. People from every walk of life participated in the events on the Day and paid tribute to the nursing staff and lauded their services.

Let me recall here the conversation that I had, during one such event, with one of my cousins who works as a nurse at a private hospital in Karachi. Then, she spoke about her duty hours, patients’ anxiety and the safety protocols being followed in the hospital after the pandemic. However, when I talked to her more recently, she focused more on the vulnerability of the medics to the coronavirus and sounded pretty worried as some of her colleagues had contracted the microbe.

“Some of my colleagues caught the coronavirus from a patient who had been admitted to the hospital with a different diagnosis. However, after two days, the patient tested for the reigning contagion and the result was positive,” she said, stressing the need for the provision of N95 masks in hospitals across the country for the medical fraternity.

These frontline fighters continue to render a great sacrifice for the whole nation, and thus deserve to be armed to the teeth, like a soldier in a war. To the contrary, they are not being given the attention they deserve, and in some cases they are literally begging of the government to provide them the required medical facilities.

According to media reports, nearly 700 healthcare workers, including more than 100 nurses, in the country have tested positive for the mushrooming virus. But despite all odds, the medical fraternity continues to perform its duties and saving lives.

“Around 87,000 nurses are currently working in Pakistan while as per international standards, the country needs another 1.3 million nurses,” the Ministry of National Health Services said in a tweet on the International Nurses Day.

The World Health Organization has already designated 2020 as the “International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife” to mark the 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing.

For an army to win a war, support from various segments of society is a must. With a collective action, we can turn the tide in the prevailing crisis. By following the health guidelines — not leaving the homes unnecessarily, keeping clean, using face mask and adopting social distance — we can do our bit and help lower the burden on the country’s health system.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 24th, 2020.

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