Home WorldNews Despite impending COVID-19 peak, US and Pakistani govts ponder ‘freedom’

Despite impending COVID-19 peak, US and Pakistani govts ponder ‘freedom’

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WASHINGTON/ISLAMABAD: Despite pockets of attention-grabbing protests, a new survey finds Americans remain overwhelmingly in favor of stay-at-home orders and other efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

A majority says it won’t be safe to lift such restrictions anytime soon ‑‑ even as a handful of governors announce plans to ease within days ‑‑ the public health efforts that have upended daily life and roiled the global economy.

Pakistani prime minister: In Pakistan too, the cricket player-turned prime minister Imran Khan seems to be vacillating on the idea of a lockdown among a generally illiterate populace. The mixed signals also coming from an assortment of Pakistani ministers often clash with those of expert government and international health officials.

Imran Khan | Freedom to die for?

There’s much debate in Pakistan too ‑‑ coming mostly from the prime minister – about the meaning of the words ‘lockdown’ and all out ‘curfew’, amid admission by the prime minister himself that COVID-19 hasn’t peaked in Pakistan yet nor reached a plateau and that that was yet to come somewhere in May.

While Imran Khan makes it a point to appear on national television now and again to explain the meaning of words in the English language while recognizing that the worst is yet to come and advising Pakistanis brace for an impending surge, he in the same breath says the ‘LOCKDOWN’ will be eased so that people can go about the business of earning a living.

He says this despite the pouring in — reportedly — of millions of pledged dollars from all over the world as well as the IMF, World Bank and World Health Organization, which he says should be distributed among the needy. Citizens now wonder where all that money has gone instead of a planned disbursement to them so that they don’t have to venture out of their homes to earn a living and subsequently be exposed to the virus.

Back in the US: However back in the US, the survey by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that more than a month after schoolyards fell silent, restaurant tables and bar stools emptied and waves from a safe distance replaced hugs and handshakes, the country largely believes restrictions on social interaction to curb the spread of the virus are appropriate.

Trump | This way and that!

Only 12% of Americans say the measures where they live go too far. About twice as many people, 26%, believe the limits don’t go far enough. The majority of Americans — 61% — feel the steps taken by government officials to prevent infections of COVID-19 in their area are about right.

About 8 in 10 Americans say they support measures that include requiring Americans to stay in their homes and limiting gatherings to 10 people or fewer — numbers that have largely held steady over the past few weeks.

“We haven’t begun to flatten the curve yet. We’re still ramping up in the number of cases and the number of deaths,” said Laura McCullough, 47, a college physics professor from Menomonie, Wisconsin. “We’re still learning about what it can do; and if we’re still learning about what it can do, this isn’t going to be the time to let people go out and get back to their life.”

While the poll reveals that the feelings behind the protests that materialized in the past week or so in battleground states such as Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are held by only a small fraction of Americans, it does find signs that Republicans are, like President Donald Trump, becoming more bullish on reopening aspects of public life.

Just 36% of Republicans now say they strongly favor requiring Americans to stay home during the outbreak, compared with 51% who said so in late March. While the majority of Democrats and Republicans think current restrictions where they live are about right, Republicans are roughly four times as likely as Democrats to think restrictions in place go too far — 22% to 5%.

More Democrats than Republicans, meanwhile, think restrictions don’t go far enough, 33% to 19%.

“They’ll be lifted, but there are still going to be sick people running around,” said 66-year-old Lynn Sanchez, a Democrat and retired convenience store manager from Jacksonville, Texas, where Gov. Greg Abbott has reopened state parks and plans to announce further relaxations next week. “And we’re going to have another pandemic.”

More than 45,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19, while 22 million have applied for unemployment benefits since March. It’s that economic cost that has led some governors to follow Trump’s lead and start talking about allowing some shuttered businesses to reopen, including in Georgia, where many businesses — including gyms, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors — can do so starting Friday. Restaurants there can resume dine-in service next week.

Yet the survey finds that few Americans — 16% — think it’s very or extremely likely that their areas will be safe enough in a few weeks for the restrictions to be lifted. While 27% think it’s somewhat likely, a majority of Americans — 56% — say conditions are unlikely to be safe in a few weeks to start lifting the current restrictions.

“If we try too hard to restart the economy prematurely, there will be waves of reinfection,” said 70-year-old retired medical equipment salesman Goble Floyd, of Bonita Springs, Florida. “I don’t think the economy or life will get back to normal until there’s a vaccine. It just seems this is so seriously contagious.”

The emerging partisan differences are apparent. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is a Republican and unwavering Trump supporter. GOP lawmakers in Wisconsin filed suit Tuesday against the state’s Democratic governor after he ordered most nonessential businesses to remain closed until May 26. –AP/NP newsroom

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