Islamabad: May 12, 2022 (TNS): It is my privilege to address this important Global COVID Summit today. I am indeed grateful to Belize, Germany, Indonesia, Senegal and the United States for inviting Pakistan to this august gathering.
The COVID pandemic upended our societies. Millions of precious lives were lost. Countless livelihoods were disrupted. It is a somber time for human civilization – a period to reflect on what truly matters for.
With this realization, we fought this pandemic together with varying degrees of success. Twenty-six months since the onset of the pandemic, we are now well-positioned to draw lessons from the adequacy of global and national responses to this unparalleled health emergency.
And lessons we must draw to discuss and develop short and long-term solutions to this, as well as future health crises.
Firstly,any approach to deal with health crisis must be grounded firmly in scientific evidence and logic; responses, monitoring and evaluation should be guided by established methods of epidemiology and community medicine.
Pakistan’s response saw positive results despite our limited resources + capacity. We locked down very quickly. Allowing our provincial and federal governments the space and time to set up the necessary infrastructure to combat this pandemic. We prioritized containment, limited geographically specific lockdown, vaccines and boosters. We shall continue to adopt standardized tools for enhanced access to new tests and treatments.
Secondly, our responses must be customized to the specific and peculiar needs of our societies. Every country and region will have to devise its own strategy. One-size-fits-all approach cannot be used to battle such pandemics. By way of example, China’s dynamic Zero-COVID approach, rooted in China’s realities, was particularly successful in eliminating the virus, saving countless lives and swift economic recovery.
Thirdly, international cooperation and coordination is of fundamental importance to the success of national efforts. Health security, especially in times of pandemic, is indivisible. Microorganisms do not recognize Nation-States. For them, we are all the same. To counter them, we must act as one.
I must acknowledge here the support we received from a number of countries and international organizations. The US was generous in providing 62 million vaccines to Pakistan in addition your commitment to provide 64 million pediatric vaccines is much appreciated. And, of course, China,from the outset, supported us tremendously. Pakistan, too, provided COVID-related assistance to countries that needed it.
In this context, it is also important todevelop synergies with specialized agencies such as WHO, UNICEF, GAVI and COVAX. Pakistan will continue to work closely with them to bolster our national response. We also intend to scale-up our capacities as one of the WHO spokes for mRNA technology and help expand vaccine supply to EMRO region and beyond.
Fourthly, the humanitarian principles must form the bedrock of national and international response to global pandemics. In such situations, I believe, a state needs to take care of its citizens like a mother takes care of her child. I must salute all those doctors and health care providers who went beyond the call of their duty to help their fellow citizens. Many of them lost their own lives. Their spirits must serve as a beacon for national efforts.
And finally, some lessons on what we must not do. Finger-pointing! Politicking, both at national and international levels, profiteering and rumor-mongering, especially when it relates to undermining the scientific evidence and hard data.
I would like to end by emphasizing that the fight against COVID must promote international solidarity. It has been evidently clear in the last two years that our survival hinges on our ability to work together.
Platforms like these should help forge greater unity among humanity so that the battle against this menace can be won decisively.