Lack of covid-19 alertness & safety measures threatens progress

Published : Tuesday, 19 January, 2021 at 12:00 AM

Covid-19 pandemic has shattered the lives of the global population throughout the world since January last year. This deadly virus was first identified in March, 2020 in Bangladesh and since then, the Bangladeshi people have gone through several measures like; lockdown for months. Till now around 8,000 people have died and over 5 lac people got infected with this virus in our country according to government reports. Many considers this figure to be much more due to lack of tests and awareness among the people especially at the rural areas. It is unsure if we have been through the second wave or not, but in recent days, citizens all around the country are behaving completely careless in terms of Covid-19 safety measures and it can cause severe threats for us in the upcoming future.

The deadly coronavirus has changed form at different parts of the world and still its behaviour is not fully predictable. Initially people anticipated cold weather as a sustaining factor for COVID-19. But in countries like Bangladesh, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, other Middle Eastern and African countries, where the weather is typically warm, the virus faced no difficulty to spread and sustain. In fact, Bangladesh had the worst Covid-19 scenario in last summer. Another summer is approaching, March is coming back and we need to be more careful and no way, we should ignore this pandemic.

The world economy has faced extreme threats due to this pandemic and many strong economies of the world are yet to recover from the scars. Offices, factories, transportations were closed for several months throughout the world, a situation this world might have never faced. Many people lost their jobs, many had to migrate, many lost near and dear ones – a complete chaos it was. As we are enduring this pandemic situation for a long time, we have slightly got used to it and have become reluctant. Many developed countries of the world are already paying the price.

Till now, the global economy as well as Bangladeshi economy is holding up despite huge spending on several stimulus packages, lack of international business and shrink in production etc. But if the Covid-19 pandemic cannot be controlled within a short time, the economy cannot sustain the repeated loads. It will be impossible to revive the economy for several years. Unfortunately, many developed countries like; UK, Italy, France, Austria, USA etc are entering second phase of lockdown in a rush with intent to control the spread of the deadly coronavirus despite having vaccines on hand.

If we look into the roads, shopping malls, offices or any other places in our country today, we will find most of the people without masks. The few wearing masks are keeping it as formality and wearing improperly. Social distancing is an extinct concept. One will get a feeling that Covid-19 does not exist in Bangladesh. This scenario not only prevails in the rural areas or suburbs but also at all major cities. The government initially imposed penalty for not wearing masks for few days but now there is no check or penalty. There is no way the authority can penalize so many people for not wearing masks. Awareness and carefulness remains mostly the responsibility of the citizens in today’s context.

Recently, we have seen the second phase of Pourosava elections in 60 constituencies. From the campaign to the election, there was no Covid-19 safety protocol evident. No leaders or candidates, no activists, no campaigners or no voters were found maintaining the safety protocol properly. Moreover, the leaders were found giving speeches, shaking hands with the voters violating all sorts of Covid-19 protections. It was really absurd and portrays our ignorance. If political leaders and activists are so careless about coronavirus, then we cannot expect much from the people.

While voting, the voters used Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) to cast their votes. No gloves were used while voting through EVM. Hundreds of people used the same EVM. It certainly violated the safety protocol. The government or the Election Commission did not make any arrangements to ensure safe use of the EVM, which is really unfortunate.

At the end of last year, the Presidential election of the United States of America (USA) was held. Though few showed a concern about the justification of holding that election during the COVID-19 crisis period, the election is eventually took place. The candidates violated the safety protocols during the election campaign, especially Republican Party candidate Donald Trump, who himself was infected with Covid-19 virus though he ignored the ferocity of the deadly virus from the very beginning. The USA is still paying for a careless election as the infection rate increased significantly after the election.

Due to Covid-19, offices, shopping malls, entertainment parks or cinema halls etc were closed for a long time. Schools, colleges, universities are still closed. For the sake of the economy and the people, offices, shopping malls or entertainment zones were slowly opened. In such situation, it is not understandable why these local government elections cannot be held at a safe period, why the elections must go on.

While our economy is going through severe constraints, there is no justification of spending huge money behind these elections. After few days, we will have next phases of the Pourosava elections and later the Union Parishad elections. As our immune Election Commission will not reschedule the elections, the government should at least instruct them to ensure COVID-19 safety protocols during the upcoming elections.

During this Covid-19 pandemic, our economy was pretty stable due to our increasing remittance income. If the second wave puts us in an awkward position in terms of increased infection and spread, then different countries will put a ban on travel from our country as it is the case with UK now, which will adversely impact our remittance income. Moreover, we have missed out on Hajj and Umrah last year. Along with the religious perspective, millions of people are involved with tourism including Hajj and Umrah, who will face severe crisis.

Our ignorant and careless behaviour regarding Covid-19 will make us pay in the near future. We are expecting Covid-19 vaccine to arrive for our people soon. But already many people have decided to not take the vaccine as they feel there is no need for the vaccine as Covid-19 is nothing serious. Not only the illiterate people but the educated ones are also behaving the same way and it is really absurd. We are really becoming hopeless about the people’s stand on Covid-19 in Bangladesh. It seems we only understand the ferocity of Covid-19 only when expecting stimulus or monetary help from the government or someone else.

It is high time that the government ran a nationwide vigorous campaign of the dangers of Covid-19. The law enforcers and other relevant authorities must play an active role to make people aware and concern about Covid-19. Penalization for violating the safety protocols must be imposed strongly immediately. The local leaders and political activists must be trained to actively participate in this campaign. If we keep ignoring the Covid-19 threats, there is no way that we can avoid consequences.

We have successfully contained the Covid-19 contamination at the initial stage of the pandemic under the guidance of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, for which we have been appreciated globally. It was her leadership which led Bangladesh towards huge development during the last decade. But all these developments and progress will be lost if we ignore the significance of this COVID-19 pandemic. Hence, we hope our people will act aware from now on.
The writer is Chief Editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Vice-Chairman, Democracy
Research Centre (DRC)

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