THE government response to the COVID-19 outbreak appears to have been mired in missteps, delayed action and ill-informed decisions since the early days of the outbreak. Its infection prevention plan often went against the global norms prescribed by the World Health Organisation and defied epidemiological patterns of the contagion observed elsewhere. The general holiday, which later left the industrial sector beyond its purview, and relaxed enforcement of social distancing protocol coupled with a lack of food aid for the poor have already taken a toll and it is reflected in a rapid rise in COVID-19 infection rate and death. Now that the number of infection and death is increasing almost with each passing day, it has already withdrawn the general holiday and is mulling over implementing zone-wise lockdown of highly infected areas. The zoning of areas is a preventive strategy that many countries have implemented from the beginning of the outbreak. In Bangladesh, the enforcement of a complete lockdown in two highly infected areas of the capital has already proved effective. Many experts have, therefore, rightly expressed their concern about the delay in implementing zone-wise strict lockdown.
The total number of COVID-19 cases, as of Wednesday, is 55,140, of whom 11,590 have recovered and 746 died. In the past two weeks, the number of daily detection of COVID-19 patients has nearly doubled. On Tuesday, the number of daily infection was 2,911, which was 1,532 on May 24. Emergency responders on the ground are bearing the brunt of this snail-paced government action. There are, therefore, reasons to believe that the government’s decision of ending the general holiday at this hour is unwise and many experts have even termed it ‘premature’ and ‘deadly’. They say that the imposition of general holiday with limited restrictions on economic and social activities, instead of a complete lockdown, in itself did not capture the urgency that was needed to avert the outbreak. The withdrawal of inadequate restrictions without taking into consideration the ground reality, more importantly, without a well-thought-out prevention plan, raises questions about the government’s ability to tackle a public health emergency. They have once again, therefore, urged the government to reconsider the decision to resume business activities and allow people’s movement before it is too late.
The government must heed with no further delay the concern of national public health experts and immediately enforce the zone-wise complete lockdown in areas already identified as hotspots of infection. In addition, it should sincerely review its decision to resume economic activities recognising the fact that lifting restrictions now may prevent short-term monetary loss, but it will come with serious long-term consequences that could be prevented with early action.
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