NCOC’s Performance

While China reported thousands of new local Covid-19 cases as the Omicron variant drove the worst outbreak in the country since Wuhan in early 2020, our country has decided to dismantle the National Command and Operations Centre (NCOC) soon, revealed Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on National Health Services Dr. Faisal Sultan Saturday.
China has placed about 17 million residents under lockdown, as virus cases doubled nationwide to nearly 3,400 and anxiety mounted over the resilience of its ‘zero-COVID’ approach in the face of the worst outbreak in two years. The southern tech hub of Shenzhen – home to about 13 million people – told all residents to stay at home as it struggles to eradicate an Omicron flare-up linked to the neighboring virus-ravaged city of Hong Kong. The lockdown and a suspension of public transport will last until March 20, a city government notice said, adding that it would launch three rounds of mass testing. A nationwide surge in cases has seen authorities close schools in Shanghai, China’s biggest city, and lock down northeastern cities, as almost 18 provinces battle clusters of the Omicron and Delta variants.
NCOC was established by the government as a nerve centre to synergise and articulate a unified national effort against COVID-19, and to implement the decisions of the National Coordination Committee in 2020 when the deadly virus started spreading globally. Pakistan didn’t just slay the first, second and third waves of Covid-19 with our health system intact, while it devastated the world’s most powerful country i.e. America or our neighbour to the east, India. Pakistan emerged as a rockstar state on how it managed Covid-19. This doesn’t mean all of Pakistan’s problems are resolved or that there aren’t things we could have done to manage Covid-19 better. What this means is that there are lots of lessons about good governance embedded into our crisis response to Covid-19, which we can use to boost our confidence and unity as a nation to resolve the big challenges ahead of us.
What’s striking about Pakistan’s Covid-19 response isn’t just the results and numbers but how policy decisions were formulated, which allows us to understand the causality and drivers of our results. This is important because even the critics now accept Pakistan has been spared the worst case Covid trajectories that say America, with all its resources, faced in the first or second wave or the devastation India faced in the third wave. The debate now is whether Pakistan got lucky, experienced a miracle bestowed by our selector in the heavens, or simply got its policymaking right.
This was a stunning rebuke of Pakistan’s longstanding cocktail of elite capture and trickle-down economics which serves as the principle anchor of our state’s policymaking. Moreover, this would have been remarkable on its own but if you study this in context of how we fared on the health sector front, it’s mind-blowing. Now we need to apply these lessons to governance — data driven policymaking, resisting elite capture — into policymaking on other fields. This is hard to believe but there’s no reason Pakistan can’t tackle big challenges. Yes, we can. Our performance on Covid-19 proves it.

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