Zunayed Mubtasim Islam
It started with one person being identified with Covid-19 on 31 December, 2019 in Wuhan, China. What transpired afterwards changed the entire complexion of human life in general around the globe.
Like many countries across the world, Bangladesh has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. The first three cases of Covid-19 were identified in Dhaka on 8 March this year, and it has been a dismal journey for us ever since.
The country has recently gotten way past the 2 lakh mark in terms of Covid-19 positive cases, and as of 24, Bangladesh has reported 2,18,658 confirmed cases of Covid-19 within its borders. Among these, 1,20,976 have recovered and there have been 2,836 deaths. While referring to a Covid-19 affected country-rank-list based on inaccurate data and comparison has proven to be largely counterproductive over time, as Bangladesh has one of the lowest per capita testing in the world. These numbers alone do a well enough job in depicting a picture of the widespread horror the people of Bangladesh are facing.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Bangladesh is in the fourth and last stage of Covid-19 transmission, which means that the disease has become native to the population, as the numbers of cases and deaths have started to grow rapidly. So, how exactly did we get here?
The initial phase of the outbreak was met with denial and lukewarm responses from religious and political leaders, which resulted in confusion regarding the identification of the problem. Our policy-makers resorted to an absurd idea of containing community transmission and keeping the economy somewhat open for livelihood at the same time, despite the abundance of data from countries that were able to contain transmission suggesting otherwise. Emphasising on preventing community transmission before considering economy support is not only the right sequence of action, but also a smart decision, as even the strongest of economies in the world were forced to be humbled by the novel coronavirus within the last six months.
Afterwards, the government’s bureaucracy-driven approach plumbed for a “general holiday” and not a strict lockdown — the function of which has proven to be largely beneficial under similar circumstances in other Covid-19 affected countries.
Poorly-planned targets and equally poor execution in terms of area-based lockdown amounted much to nothing, as people were able to roam around freely from one region to another. Researches examining the background demographics, clinical presentation, and epidemiological data of the affected have been taken as casually as possible by relevant sectors. The lack of dedication and clarity regarding the official health-protocol TTI (testing, tracing, and isolation) only hinted towards a more fundamental problem in our national structures. Why else would a country that outranked its neighbours on many health-care indexes over the past few decades, fall short in comparison in terms of managing a pandemic?
In this new normal where almost every event is unprecedented, no one can claim to be the aficionado we often hope for. Regardless of that, there have been countries who have mastered the art of containing this problem, and needless to say that notes should be taken from them.
First of all, effective campaigns with the purpose of offering crystal-line clarity about Covid-19 related awareness is imperative, as we take notes from Vietnam — a country with zero death case due to coronavirus outbreak.
Second of all, researches of background demographics, clinical presentation, and epidemiological data to develop new solutions should not be halted or hindered by the bureaucratic red tape.
Thirdly, non-pharmaceutical equipments, such as counterfeit masks and hand sanitizers have flooded the market due to no monitoring and regulation — which should immediately be taken under control.
Fourthly, promptly conducting three levels of contact tracing for each positive case, which includes identifying the second, third, and fourth levels of contacts of infected individuals, has no alternative.
Last in order, investing in health sector, staying committed to the TTI protocol, and opting for strict curfew-style lockdowns in reported areas — are the most pivotal objectives that should be taken on right away.
Bangladesh has been observing a decrease in the number of newly affected Covid-19 patients in the last 10 days, as it dropped from 3,500 patients on 14 July to around 2500 patients on 24 July. But the country has seen similar rates of decrease in recent past which resulted in nothing fruitful.
As of 23 July, Bangladesh has called for equitable and affordable access to Covid-19 vaccines. Meanwhile, The British Government has assured equitable distribution of the vaccine on a global scale. However, with Eid-ul-Azha being right around the corner, a national event in which a staggering six crore people will likely engage in the process of sacrificing 1.2 crore animals — risk of transmission will be high as ever. The government is yet to take a central management model for this huge event during the outbreak. Experts also predict that people may become very susceptible to coronavirus during winter, much like they do in cases of other respiratory diseases. Collaboration with civil society organisations on all levels including community, municipal, provincial, and national could prove itself to be of help under these circumstances.
While the entire process of restoring our normal setting of life is incredibly tricky, and none of us know how far we are from the finishing line, the least we could do is preventing ourselves from any sort of activity that has the slightest potential of making the situation worse than it already has been. Our duty towards social distancing, wearing face masks in public places, and practicing strict hygiene should be of paramount importance.
The only way to get out of our plight is to work as a unit and march on the path of general wellbeing. The sooner we accept it, the better.