C-19: Future threats and predictions must not be ignored

Published : Tuesday, 5 October, 2021 at 12:00 AM

The COVID-19 scenario in Bangladesh has improved significantly during the past few weeks as both the infection rate and the number of deaths is very low right now. Hence, it may seem enticing to feel at ease and believe that the worst is behind us. But this feeling of satisfaction might turn out to be a serious mistake. Previously we have been to such satisfactory phase and acted reluctant. Though in reality, a new wave caught us unprepared and caused mayhem. Hence, despite significant drop in the COVID-19 cases and deaths, we should not be at ease, especially with the educational institutions open.

The health experts have already warned that the recent downward trend in the COVID-19 infection rate and deaths could be only temporary and that another wave of the pandemic may be just approaching in a matter of weeks. So, it is necessary that we do not make mistakes like the previous instances by ignoring the predictions while failing to proactively take actions. Bangladesh and its people are moving towards a relatively normal life for a while and if we allow another wave of COVID-19 to hit us off-guard, then it will be very difficult to fight back from the destructions.

Usually COVID-19 pandemic has showed a specific pattern like; at the beginning of summer, the pandemic became fiercer in Bangladesh. During October to December, the COVID-19 infection rate and death remained comparatively low in numbers. Additionally, vaccine has come out as a new variable in the calculation of this pandemic. Hence, many are expecting to have the pandemic under control and with the continued vaccination for next few months, we can have a good stand.

Instead of the virus raging through entire communities, it is likely to target the unvaccinated, including children this time. If rates are high enough, the most vulnerable of the vaccinated – the elderly and the people with other health difficulties will be infected. But major outbreaks can still occur, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates. Experts have already predicted that the US, UK and other European countries are going to experience the fourth wave by the mid of October, 2021. The experts of Indian health sector have also forecasted a new wave of COVID-19 from the beginning of October throughout India. The South American and African countries are also having similar assumptions. With such predictions, we should not ignore the probability of another surge of COVID-19 in Bangladesh.

The fully vaccinated rate against the total population till now is 56.3% in US, 29.5% in Russia, 64.6% in Germany, 65.9% in France, 69.2% in Italy, 45.8% in Australia, 17.9% in India, 61.3% in Japan and 63.4% in China. But that rate for Bangladesh is only 10.4% till now. Even after vaccinating such a large part of the population, COVID-19 cases are increasing in many of these countries. The western countries are even providing booster does to those who have received full two doses of COVID-19 vaccine 6 months before. But many of these countries even declared that, they are entering fourth wave of COVID-19 pandemic.

It is the winter when COVID-19 cases increase in the Western world, but for us, it is usually the summer. We need to provide full doses of COVID-19 vaccine to most of our eligible people before the next summer. Along with maintaining COVId-19 health and hygiene guidelines, we need to increase our vaccination drive significantly as not only we need to vaccinate the non-vaccinated people but also need to provide booster dose to the ones who received second dose of vaccine a year ago.

We have opened the doors of the educational institutions from September 12 except the universities. Children and teenagers have returned to their classrooms though in a curtailed manner. They are not vaccinated and variants of COVID-19 like the ‘delta variant’ can infect anyone including these younger ones. Moreover, with the new wave, new variants can come to the scene as COVID-19 seems to mutate frequently. Children over 12 years of age are getting vaccinated in the Western world but we are yet to receive that vaccine. With educational institutions open, that age group can be subjected to the COVID-19 threats heavily this time.

After 543 long days, schools have opened and the students joyously embraced the chance to return to the classrooms. But we have seen several COVID-19 cases at schools reported on the social media. The education minister DrDipuMoni confirmed that, many of those reports were followed up by the government and no truth was found. But we cannot be reluctant at all over the fact that, students have not yet been infected from schools and the COVID-19 infection rate have been dropping significantly in Bangladesh.

The waves of COVID-19 have never appeared in Bangladesh without notice but we repeatedly ignored and had to pay the price. The economy of Bangladesh took a great hit. Fortunately, our people are now interested to get vaccine and the vaccination drive is ongoing. But, though we are receiving different COVID-19 vaccines now in regular interval, the government must focus on maintaining the flow as well as producing vaccines internally. Additionally, we need to arrange vaccines for the children at earliest.

For due reasons, the government of Bangladesh kept the educational institutions closed for a long time. If the children are infected with COVID-19, the chance of community infections rises high. It also puts the future generation of the country exposed to an unhealthy upbringing with the toll that COVID-19 leaves on one’s body. Moreover, a child cannot take care of self while fighting with COVID-19 and the parents and other family members easily gets exposed

Unfortunately, with the educational institutes open, the teachers and staffs are yet not fully vaccinated. Before opening the schools, they should have been vaccinated with utmost priority. But we clearly failed to ensure that. Now, it is important that, we put serious emphasis on vaccinating the teachers and staffs of schools, colleges and universities. Moreover, the parents, drivers and maids of the students should be vaccinated too. The government must take some steps to vaccinate the groups surrounding students soon.

Schools have opened and we are very happy about that. The media coverage of the school opening was immense. The social media were flooded with posts related to the school opening. But after that initial hype, we are not really following up if the COVID-19 protocol is being maintained properly at the educational institutes. The government must form inspection teams with the relevant authority at every ward or union to check on all educational institutions if they are maintaining COVID-19 guidelines. Moreover, these inspection teams should create a list about the vaccination status of the teachers and staffs of these institutions. Representatives from the guardians of the students should also be in those inspection teams.

Not only at educational institutions but also at offices and different public places, the COVID-19 guidelines must be fully maintained. Many countries, with much better COVID-19 scenario than ours, are yet to open everything while we have opened everything. Our reluctant attitude should not send us back to our homes again.

Most importantly, the government should increase the capacity of vaccination at earliest as there is no other way to fight COVID-19. Moreover, we need to prepare for the availability of booster dose from now on. The people have also a significant role to play. Though the COVID-19 infection is not at an alarming level right now, we must follow the health guidelines. The law enforcers have completely stopped their activity to ensure that people are following COVID-19 guidelines but it is highly required right now.

If we can keep the COVID-19 situation under control for another six months, we may win over this ferocious pandemic. It is not a time to act reluctant though that seems to be the current situation of our country. The authority needs to put on maximum effort to not only control but eliminate COVID-19 threats from Bangladesh. Only then all our sectors will be able to operate in full and our country will keep progressing. We hope everyone – the people, the authority and the government – act smart from now on.

The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron,
Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela

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