The government has extended the 14-day ‘serious lockdown’ due to inclining COVID-19 transmission for another 7 days. The reports tell us that, the lockdown brought serious positive results during the last two weeks but the situation at the hospitals, concerns from the experts and situation at our neighboring country India tells us a quite different story. Whatever the case is, lockdown may not be a solution considering our economy and if the people are not aware, lifting up the lockdown even before Eid may create a great disaster.
Thousands of COVID-19 infected patients are still looking for ICU, the doctors are regularly coming at social media expressing their concerns and the rural area (at thana and different district levels) hospitals have almost zero COVID-19 treatment facilities. But the COVID-19 situation might have improved a bit during the last two weeks as different reports are projecting. Despite, we must not forget that, the situation might reach at its worst in a blink of an eye if we act with negligence.
Though the government declared to remove the ‘serious lockdown’ after April 28, yesterday they revised the decision suddenly to extend it for 7 more days. May be, they have some alarming information. But if the government imposes a strict lockdown, shopping malls, markets, offices, factories should not remain open. Due to this reluctance, we are not getting expected results from these short lockdowns.
Our neighboring country India is going through a very hard time due to severe COVID-19 situation. They are everyday making new records in terms of daily identified COVID-19 cases and deaths. People are waiting for days to receive treatment and many are dying outside the hospitals. They are suffering from lack of oxygen and ICU facility and even hospital beds. People are continuously blaming the government for broke down health system. This scenario is completely due to the negligence of both the Indian government and the people.
It is unimaginable that, if with the current situation, state government polls are ongoing in India. Most importantly, masks or any other COVID-19 health guidelines were completely ignored in the election campaigns. Even the PM Narendra Modi was found giving speeches without masks at public gatherings on several instances and that was a very wrong message to the people.
Moreover, as the current Indian government is religiously proactive, they allowed ‘Kumv Mela’. As India grapples with a devastating second wave of the coronavirus, millions of devotees have descended on the banks of the Ganges River in the northern city of Haridwar to take a dip in the water and now they suffer. So, we should not allow similar ignorant behavior and negligence to the COVID-19 threats in our country.
Like the ‘Kumv Mela’ in India, during the holy month of Ramadan, the Muslims are not following the health guidelines provided by the Ministry of Religious Affairs. Moreover, the religious leaders including Imams of different mosques do not follow COVID-19 safety codes by themselves and give a message to the mass people that, Allah will save us from COVID-19. This is absolutely wrong and will bring questions over religious practices and beliefs in the future.
From a fierce perspective, a newly found Triple Mutant COVID-19 variant is causing the serious havoc in India. As it originated in the West Bengal, may be during the election campaign period, this variant is named the ‘Bengal Variant’. It is extremely dangerous as the time from transmission to death is very low. It is almost certain that, this ‘Bengal Variant’ will enter our country in some way very soon. We have already heard that 10 people, who came from India and were in quarantine due to COVID-19, fled at Jessore and ‘Bengal Variant’ might have already entered Bangladesh.
If this COVID-19 variant enters Bangladesh, we will not be able to control or contain the situation. Hence, we need to close all borders with India right now for at least a month despite our huge dependence on India for business, treatment and many things else. During 1994 plague outbreak in India, Bangladesh sealed all borders with its neighbor strictly and that did not allow the plague to enter our country. Though the government has declared to close all borders with India from April 26 for 14 days, any leniency regarding this border lock will bring sheer bad luck.
We can almost rest assured that ‘Bengal Variant’ has entered or will enter Bangladesh. So, are we prepared for it? Thousands of people are dying in India only due to lack of oxygen availability. India is now buying oxygen from different countries. Our government should start mounting up oxygen from right at this moment. Large corporate houses and businessmen especially RMG owners must participate in this oxygen collection drive with major funds like Ratan Tata did in India.
We believe, lockdown is not a solid solution for Bangladesh in tackling the fierce pandemic. As we have said many times before, mass awareness is the only key to win this battle again COVID-19. People must wear mask, get tested if have COVID-19 syndromes and isolate selves if infected.
We often see videos on social media with funny remarks of people on COVID-19 and those become viral. The government, NGOs, humanitarian organizations should create relating contents like; interviews of families who lost their only earning member due to COVID-19 and their current financial hardship to create COVID-19 awareness. We need to create fear and tension among people about the aftereffects of COVID-19 on their family members. We must project the vicious impact of this deadly virus on health, social life and family financial condition. We need to use all available media on mass scale to run such campaigns immediately.
It is unfortunate that, our leaders including those at the local government level are almost invisible in this fight against COVID-19. Almost no statement or action is found from them except distribution of government reliefs (for obvious reasons). The MPs, pourosava mayors, upazilla chairman and members, union parishad chairman and members – everyone is away from the people except very few. They must run a rigorous campaign to create awareness among people. No fine, no penalty but only informing the audience about the ferocious impact of COVID-19 through videos, pictures and meaningful messages.
We expected the rich group should play a proactive role in supporting the poor people of our country during this crisis period. They could have donated food or support the health sector. But the richest group of our country, the RMG owners, is the first to seek government’s stimulus to pay their employees. They can spend millions a month but cannot pay their employees though their factories were open during the lockdown. We have not seen FBCCI, MCCI, BGMEA, BASIS or any other business association to do much to reduce the sufferings of the low-income people and the unemployed ones. Unfortunately, the government will not be able to help the poor until the hunger of these rich ones can be satisfied. Hence, we need to focus on awareness as out last resort.
We were very happy that COVID-19 vaccination has started very early in our country. But already we are facing scarcity of vaccines as our main supplier India has stopped vaccine export. Global vaccine politics will also play a significant role soon. As Bangladesh has already paid for 15 million doses and received only 7 million doses till now, we hope, we receive the next batches soon. Additionally, Bangladesh is on course to attain the Russian vaccine production patent. But we will be always in need of COVID-19 vaccine during the next few years with our huge population. Moreover, the current vaccines might not be very effective against this ‘Bengal Variant’ or the future variants. Hence, we cannot depend much on vaccination too.
We must not provide any wrong message to our people as the Indian government, including their PM, did. Vivid awareness campaign along with responsible actions is a must right now. Any hesitation is going to be very costly. We just hope, the government and related authorities and support groups can create enough mass awareness so that we can come out as winners in this fight against COVID-19.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Chief Patron, Bangabandhu
Shishu Kishore Mela