932Published on July 15, 2021
Pranab Kumar Panday:
Bangladesh has been devastated by the second wave of Covid-19. The situation is getting worse day by day. The number of corona patients per day has reached more than 13,000 and the death toll has risen to a record high of 230. The overall Corona situation has created a kind of fear among the people. Although almost two weeks have passed since the government started implementing the stringent lockdown, there has been no significant change in the daily contamination and death rate. There is no doubt that this year's lockdown is being enforced more strictly than before. The tendency of a large section of the population to go out of the house has been somewhat reduced. However, in many cases, curious crowds are still coming out from home to observe how lockdown is being enforced and facing questions of law enforcement agencies. In some cases, people are being penalised for violating movement restriction.
In light of the experience of the Coronavirus outbreak over the past one and a half years in different countries, it can be said that it takes a few weeks to flatten the rate of infection once it reaches its peak. In many cases, it takes two to four weeks or somewhere much longer. In the light of the experience of all those countries, it may take at least two to three weeks, or even more, to flatten the rate of contamination and death in the second wave of Corona devastation in Bangladesh provided that the people follow the instructions of the government spontaneously.
Public health experts assume that it will take a long time to break the chain of this infection. The most important requirement to break this chain is to stay at home and follow the Corona safety protocols. Despite the stern role of law enforcement agencies in urban areas and highways, strict lockdowns are not being enforced in alleyways and rural areas. It is important to note here that although the number of patients infected in the first wave of Corona was higher in urban areas, the second wave of infection has spread to rural areas. According to government estimates, more than half of the patients admitted to different hospitals are rural patients. Moreover, the infection rate is increasing hastily as the Indian Delta variant spreads widely among the rural population.
If we fail to control the spread of contamination quickly, the situation could spiral out of control. From the experience of the Corona situation in India two months ago, we can say that the Indian health sector is much more developed than our health sector. However, hospitals and doctors had to work hard to control the situation there. The government had to face criticisms in dealing with the situation. There were not enough beds in the hospitals. We have seen many patients die due to a shortage of oxygen. Even there were many complications in burying dead bodies. Therefore, considering the deteriorating Corona situation in the country, if we all do not restrain ourselves, the situation may become even awful.
The government of Bangladesh cannot afford to implement lockdown week after week or month after month because the life and livelihood of the working-class population are deeply associated with the decision to enforce lockdown. This class of population are mostly day labourers. Therefore, if they fail to earn a day, they fall into an ineffable dilemma to find a strategy to maintain their livelihood the next day. In such a dire situation, all citizens should behave responsibly. By acting irresponsibly, we are endangering ourselves or our relatives and the people of Bangladesh and the government. It is difficult to improve the situation until everyone understands the gravity of this issue.
While the world's giant economies are struggling to keep the wheel of the economy moving and deal with public health issues triggered by the Coronavirus, the Bangladesh government has so far dealt with the situation with great success. The way the Awami League government led by Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been fighting against Corona for the last one and a half years is commendable. Under her prudent leadership, the government has kept the wheel of the economy in motion and provided substantial assistance to the poor during the Corona period. From the time of the first wave of Corona, the government has been providing daily necessities to the people at low prices through an open market sale.
Last year, cash money was delivered directly to the poor before Eid. More people have been brought under social safety net schemes. The government has even tried to provide adequate assistance to other people, including public transport workers or the people living in extreme poverty. The government's decision to provide 10 kg of rice free of cost to more than one crore families before the upcoming Eid is commendable. However, we also need to keep in mind that our government cannot provide all kinds of assistance to many poor people according to their needs for months.
Experiences in other countries of the world suggest that many giant business groups and individuals have extended their support to the poor and the government during this devastation. In India, the way industrialists, including the Tata group, cricketers, actors and businessmen, have stood by the people and helped them in times of crisis is truly exemplary. It is impossible to overcome this situation by imposing responsibility on the government alone at the most difficult time of the century.
Indeed, several business organisations, industrial groups, and voluntary organisations like Vidyananda Foundation have been assisting the poor since the first wave of Corona in the country. However, it is also true that a class of people in Bangladesh have much money in their hands; they can stand by the poor if they want to. If all the government, private and semi-government institutions do not work together, it will be very difficult to overcome this catastrophe.
We should all stand by the government and the poor from our respective positions. In the current situation, the government is making concerted efforts to provide healthcare assistance and support to people living below the poverty line during the lockdown. So far, patients are being treated in hospitals at no cost. Adequate oxygen has been supplied so far across the country. Of course, the government has acknowledged some problems with the oxygen supply in some rural areas. However, the government is trying to overcome these problems as soon as possible to protect the people.
However, considering the situation, we should keep in mind that when the country's health system or economy is under threat during the crisis, the responsible behaviour of the citizens is highly desirable. If the citizens continue to disobey the Covid-19 safety rules as directed by the government, it will never be possible to reduce the rate of Corona infection to the desired level. It is the responsibility of the people to assist the government during a time of crisis. Instead of blaming the government, let us all follow the corona safety rules, stay at home, and help the government bring the corona situation under control.
We should all remember that if a house catches fire, that house alone will not be affected by the fire. The fire will affect all the houses adjacent to that house. Therefore, if we do not keep ourselves protected, we will not be able to protect anyone around us. Moreover, the situation will not come under control if we fail to get ourselves protected. Therefore, we should behave responsibly and make concerted efforts together with the government to overcome the pandemic.
Writer: Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.
Source: The Daily Sun