Bangladesh, along with many other countries, is facing the worst COVID-19 scenario so far in recent days as the deadly pandemic is spreading like fire throughout the country. Everyday new records are being set in terms of identified spread of this virus. But this scenario could have been easily avoided if we, especially our policy and strategy makers, could have acted sane and responsible. Unfortunately we are still not taking proper steps to contain the situation. Rather, the steps of our policy makers are coming out as very funny jokes to our citizens and motivating us to ignore all COVID-19 rules and guidelines.
This deadly virus started to spread in Bangladesh with the beginning of summer last year. We have mentioned in several articles that, COVID-19 cases will go up with the start of summer this year too as the virus contains significantly different attributes in different countries. But no one actually cared and now the situation is rolling out of hands as 9,318 lives were lost and 6,44,439 were infected in total in Bangladesh till now with a sharp incline in both the numbers of infected and dead during the month of March, 2021 and is continuing in April too.
Unfortunately, the government and relevant authorities failed to create enough mass awareness to contain the spread of COVID-19. Truly, the authority has not even moved responsibly. While many intellectuals and experts were repeatedly trying to alert the authority, none actually cared. Still the authority is denying the gravity of the situation in terms of their actions, which is completely bizarre. The National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 must be held accountable for the alarming COVID-19 situation in Bangladesh today. Their actions, plans, strategies and activities were full of ignorance, negligence and foolishness during the last few months while the lives of millions were at stake.
We have many people working in different countries and they randomly visit Bangladesh. Last year COVID-19 possibly entered Bangladesh through them as we failed to close the international flights on time. This year also, while the whole world was suffering from new COVID-19 strains, we failed to stop overseas flights and the new strains entered Bangladesh. The National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 failed to take any action to prevent such entry. Moreover, we kept pourashava elections, political gathering and protests open till few days back. It was really absurd that under severe COVID-19 threat, we allowed elections to take place as we did not even learn from the experiences of US.
Last year the middle and low income group suffered a lot as they lost all sort of business and working opportunities prior to the Pahela Baisakh, Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr. Though they received some stimulus and financial and food support from the government, that was inadequate. This year also they might face the same fate and the impact will be fiercer. The National Technical Advisory Committee on COVID-19 cannot avoid their responsibility in bringing misfortune to millions of people of country.
Last month, we observed the 50th anniversary of our independence as well as the 101st birthday of the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Both the occasions were of high emotions for every citizen of independent Bangladesh. But while we were celebrating we had to understand the threats of COVID-19 floating around ourselves. The nationwide celebration completely ignored the COVID-19 safety protocols.
We have seen many top leaders paying their tributes without mask with no social distancing. The activists and junior leaders also completely ignored safety guidelines. Wherever there was an event, thousands of people gathered without any. Now, they are suffering but we cannot blame the mass people as it was the duty of the authority to disallow such public gatherings.
During the celebration of 50 years of independence, leaders of many countries visited Bangladesh. Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, also came to Bangladesh on the occasion. India was the greatest ally of Bangladesh during the liberation war of 1971 and had huge contribution behind our independence as well as safe return of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman from Pakistani prison to independent Bangladesh.
Surrounding the visit of Indian PM Narendra Modi, the Islamist Leaders under the banner of Hefazat-E-Islam started mass protest and BNP-Jamaat alliance indirectly supported the movement. Few student forums under the leadership of VP Nur also participated in this protest. Unfortunately, all these protests, movements and vandalism completely ignored COVID-19 safety protocols. The Hefazat-E-Islam leaders, millions of madrasa students and Islamic leaders never wear masks as they believe COVID-19 will not touch them. Though due to their maintenance of self-hygiene and better physical condition resulting from regulated lifestyle, they are usually less touched by COVID-19, ignoring COVID-19 safety protocols during mass protests has only brought this nation misery.
BNP also arranged several anti-government protests during the last few months ignoring the COVID-19 threats. Though prior to the golden jubilee of our independence, they declared to cancel all their public programs due to threats of COVID-19 spread, they again came out in support of Hefazat-E-Islam breaking all the safety protocols. Unfortunately, BNP, Hefazat or VP Nur all failed to provide the government a guideline to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Another great joke was to arrange Amar Ekushey Book Fair, 2021 from March 18 to April 14. While the whole country is under severe threat of COVID-19 calamity and the intense situation is not letting us to open the educational institutes for over a year, the book fair is ongoing. As we have entered into the nationwide lockdown from yesterday, even then the book fair is running.
What a joke we have made of a national crisis! The publishers and writers almost forcefully attained permission to run the book fair this year and our authority also complied. If the most educated ones like our writers, publishers, Bangla Academy authority and personnel from Cultural Affairs ministry can depict such negligence and ignorance, then we should never expect any awareness from the mass people of our country.
The Health Department recently took physical medical admission test. Thousands of students along with their family members had to gather at every admission test centres. It was really silly especially when the COVID-19 safety protocols were completely ignored by the Health Department authority. Everyone ignores the safety of the citizens whenever it comes to their own interest. It makes us wonder who will protect the future of this nation as we act so selfish.
The government has ordered a 7-day nationwide lockdown from yesterday (April 5-11) and it came out as another joke. All the offices – government, semi-government, private are open though with limited capacity, the industries are open but the mass transport is closed. It seems like that, this lockdown is to ensure the sufferings of the people only. Most importantly, during this nationwide urgent lockdown, the book fair is open! This COVID-19 pandemic along with recent price hikes of commodity products, increased transport fairs, lack of health facilities, funny lockdown is crushing the people–especially the middle and low income group–of this country.
We hope the citizens of our country can realize the threat of COVID-19 by themselves. We need to maintain the COVID-19 safety protocols for the fullest for few weeks. If we do not take responsibility of our own, this country as well as the citizens of this country will not progress. We cannot depend on our policy makers or leaders any more. It is time to act smart and responsible.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Chief Patron, Bangabandhu
Shishu Kishore Mela