THE number of COVID-19 cases having crossed more than four lakh in Bangladesh, with health experts fearing a further increase in infection in the winter is worrying. Health authorities have recorded 5,800 death from the novel coronavirus until Monday since March 18, when the authorities first reported such death in Bangladesh, which is now ranked in the 18th position on the list of countries with COVID-19 cases. It took 61 days to record the latest one lakh cases, with a daily average of 1,639 cases, as the Directorate General of Health Services says. The first one lakh cases were recorded in 102 days, the second one lakh in 30 days and the third one lakh in 39 days. Although the number of cases has slightly gone down in recent times, the positivity rate has been slightly below 11 and the fatality rate at 1.45. The situation does not seem assuring. It is, however, heartening that the government speaks of further efforts to fight any second wave that is feared in the winter.
What, however, comes to be worrying is that the government has faltered way too much in taking and implementing decisions it has so far made to contain the outbreak. The government announced a 66-day general holiday on March 26, but could not arrange for a proper screening of the people entering Bangladesh from abroad and their quarantine. It also could not ensure adequate treatment in hospitals designated for COVID-19 patients while thousands of non-COVID-19 patients faced treatment refusal. It could not put any monitoring mechanism in place to make people follow the health protocols during and after the general holiday. A number of scams and cases of corruption in the health sector exposed the vulnerability of the sector. A nexus between some government officials, politically powerful people and businesspeople also tried to exploit the outbreak to make some quick money. What is further worrying is that the government could not attend to the basic needs of a growing number of poor people. Any second wave, in such a context, would require the government to effectively attend to a number of issues and the government should take lessons from its earlier mistakes and effectively take and implement necessary measures, which it should have been aware of by now.
The government must, therefore, make a course correction in taking and implementing containment measures to curb any second wave of COVID-19. It must increase the number of tests and strengthen healthcare and quarantine facilities. The government must also enhance its relief programmes and ensure that the benefits of the programmes reach the targeted people. Coordination among all the agencies concerned is a must to draw up informed plans and execute them.
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