THE government failing to provide adequate personal protective equipment for all emergency service providers is worrying. A 10-day shutdown began on Thursday but hundreds of emergency service providers are left working without safety gear amidst COVID-19 concerns. Field officials of service providers such as physicians, nurses and other staff in hospital, the police, fire fighters, cleaners, utility service providers are working amidst fear of the new coronavirus, which has infected 44 people by Friday and left five dead. Police personnel working in the open or utility agency employees of the Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority and the Dhaka Power Distribution Company in Dhaka have expressed concern about not getting adequate safety gear. In most cases, the government and its agencies concerned have provided only masks, in some cases also gloves, for the emergency service providers. Only masks or gloves, as health experts say, are not adequate as other parts of the body remain exposed to the threat of the new coronavirus infection.
In such a situation, many service providers understandably appear unwilling to discharge their duties to ensure the quarantine of all the affected and suspected cases and to provide basic services for millions. The shortage of safety gear has raised other related problems too which curtail people’s rights to services. Health service providers — physicians, interns, nurses and other staff — are reported to have been reluctant at treating patients with symptoms of seasonal influenza that are also typically symptoms of the new coronavirus infection in the absence of protective gear. While it is unacceptable that health service providers neglect patients with influenza or respiratory problems, the fear of healthcare service providers of getting infected is real too, given that five health care professionals have already been infected. Any delay in providing healthcare service providers with personal protective equipment could exacerbate the situation. Besides, adequate safety gear has to be given to all engaged in emergency, or even conservancy, services to make sure that the shutdown bears the maximum fruit and that people staying at home do not suffer for a lack of essential services. What is also unacceptable is what the health minister claimed just the other day that personal protection equipment was not essential for healthcare professionals while many countries have announced special health insurance packages for emergency service providers.
The government must, therefore, provide adequate safety gear for all emergency service providers so that they can ensure a smooth run of supplies. Leaving anyone, especially service providers, vulnerable to infection would jeopardise others too and would hardly help the government’s measures to contain the coronavirus outbreak.
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