Unacceptable incoordination in COVID-19 mitigation efforts

Published: 00:00, Apr 08,2020


THE statement of the health minister, Zahid Maleque, who heads the national committee on coronavirus, that he has not been aware of decisions that various authorities have taken on the containment of the infection of the virus brings to the fore the incoordination that has so far largely plagued the state of affairs. The minister is reported to have said at a programme at the Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons in Dhaka on Monday that he was not informed of the reopening and closure of apparel factories that has potentially added to the risk of the infection spread, the meeting with mosque authorities that, rightly but delayedly though, has imposed restrictions on congregation at mosques and restrictions on passage through roads in places, especially at the entry and exit points of cities. The fight against the spread of the coronavirus infection entails that all related agencies — the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research that runs the tests and oversees quarantine and isolation issues, the health ministry that looks into health care, the home affairs ministry that ensures the home quarantine and lockdown issues, the food and the commerce ministry that play the crucial role in keeping the supply chain uninterrupted and the disaster management and relief ministry that makes relief supplies available to make the holiday and quarantine issues successful — should work together.

But the situation that comes up through the statement of the health minister and a few other happenings such as the quarantine not being properly managed, the lockdown of areas being breached, the supply chain being largely hampered, the relief supply issue still not being adequately conducted and health care in hospitals not being fully ensured even in cases other than coronavirus infection suggests that the whole of the issue has been mired in incoordination. While many of the agencies are engaged in the coronavirus mitigation efforts, they appear to be mostly out of step with one another and the national committee on coronavirus that the health minister heads. Such a lack of coordination is unacceptable when a further threat of the new coronavirus is impending. Coronavirus has by Tuesday infected 164 people and left 17 people dead; 33 of the cases have been closed. In a situation like this, the health minister seeking to request, as New Age reported on Tuesday, all concerned to at least consult the health ministry if others are unwilling to take decisions from the ministry remains the worst of self-defeating stand that questions the raison d’être of the minister and the ministry. The minister as the head of the committee has also not been heard of having taken any initiatives to attend to such issues of incoordination.

But the health minister is on point when he says that the situation would be difficult to handle if the novel coronavirus infection spreads everywhere. The government must, therefore, understand that the fight against the spread of the new coronavirus infection should entail that all relevant agencies work in sync with one another under a central coordination committee, which would plan the mitigation efforts, oversee the execution of all the steps and make further recommendations or make changes in decision, if required.

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