Lockdown extension a prudent decision

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Published on May 9, 2021
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Pranab Kumar Panday:

The government of Bangladesh has been implementing lockdown since April 14 to deal with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. We have already learned that the implementation of complete lockdown is one of the most effective tools to prevent the spread of the lethal Coronavirus. Implementing lockdown means forcing people to stay where there are.

Through the implementation of lockdown, different countries of the world have succeeded in controlling the upheaval of Corona. However, a relevant question is how long can this lockdown be extended in a country like Bangladesh? The lockdown centric issue that is being discussed among all is what will be the option of maintaining the livelihood of a large section of the population? The issue of life and livelihood in Corona has always been seriously considered. A livelihood is indeed necessary for life, but what will happen with livelihood if there is no life-this is also a million-dollar question.

By implementing lockdown for the last three weeks, the transmission rate of the second wave of COVID-19 has decreased to a great intensity in Bangladesh. We must admit that the government is relaxing the lockdown considering the livelihood of many sections of people. The decision to keep the mills and factories open on complying with COVID-19 protocols was taken from this perspective. Although these decisions have been criticised by various quarters, especially public health experts, the government has no alternative than implementing lockdown to restrain the spread of infection.

In an economy like Bangladesh, it is impossible to help people keeping them locked inside the house for a prolonged lockdown period. The lives of all those who live from hand to mouth have become miserable during this lockdown. It has to be acknowledged that the government is making a desperate effort in the second wave, like the first wave, to help different classes of poor people during the lockdown. Even the government has decided to provide help at the doorstep of the people if they call 333. This is a praiseworthy decision of the government. The Prime Minister has also decided to provide cash assistance of TK. 2,500 to about 36 lakh families ahead of Eid, which has been appreciated by all quarters. All these decisions have been taken to help poor people.

We have already noticed that the rate of infection has dropped significantly due to a prolonged lockdown. While the infection rates were 22 to 25 per cent at the beginning of the lockdown, it has come down to around 8 per cent. Even the death rate has also reduced to great intensity. This justifies the implementation of lockdown as an important mechanism of controlling the COVID-19 infection. Most importantly, the lockdown has enabled us to break the chain of transmission with the help of the people and the government's precise action plan. There was a kind of fear among all concerned that the government might lift the lockdown ahead of Eid?. However, the government has taken the most prudent decision to continue lockdown until May 16. Besides, considering the plight of the transport workers, it has decided to allow running public transport within the city from May 6 following safety measures. This decision will help poor public transport workers to sustain their livelihood.

Eid is the biggest religious festival of the majority of people in Bangladesh. As a result, people from all walks of life buy new clothes for themselves and their families ahead of Eid. Many people leave the city and go to the village to enjoy Eid with their relatives, which is a normal phenomenon. Hence, there is a possibility of overcrowding of population in markets and roads. Therefore, the most difficult challenge for the government in this situation is to force the people to follow the Corona safety protocols.

Many have argued that since the rate of COVID-19 infection has dropped, it would have been better not to have decided to continue lockdown ahead of Eid. However, we also need to keep in mind that if we start moving around again, showing reluctance to follow the Corona safety rules, we will be at the top of the transition again after Eid. A situation may arise when there will be a shortage of normal beds and ICUs in the hospital, and there will be a shortage of oxygen supply. We have already observed the situation in India. The second wave of Corona has distraught India from all sides. The country does not have enough hospital beds, and there is a shortage of oxygen. The air is getting heavier at the behest of the patient's relatives. Learning from the situation in India, it is safe to say that the government's decision to extend the lockdown was a well thought one. Because if we cannot bring the infection rate to zero or keep it there, the crisis could escalate at any time.

Again, many have criticised the government decision because the implementation of the lockdown has made the lives of the poor extremely miserable. At the same time, I would ask this group whether it is unacceptable to see many people die from Corona? The answer is certainly no. Therefore, I applaud the government's decision to increase the lockdown time by maintaining a balance between life and livelihood.

Another major challenge for the Bangladesh government is to protect the country from the double or triple mutant virus identified in India. The government has already decided to close all borders with India for 14 days to ensure that the virus does not enter Bangladesh. As this lockdown grows, there is a need to increase the deadline of closing of borders also. This is because the transmission rate of double or triple mutant viruses is about 300 times higher than that of the earlier variant of the virus.

Although the World Health Organization has not yet recognised the double or tipple mutant virus identified in India, they have admitted that these variants have been found in 17 countries. Since Bangladesh is a densely populated country, our situation will be similar to that of India if this virus enters our country. Moreover, if that happens, it will have a terrible effect on our health and economy. It is the responsibility of all of us to fight the Corona pandemic. This war is not for the government alone. If we all play our part to overcome this pandemic together, the day is not far when we will be able to return to a normal life.

Writer: Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi