THE government response to the second wave of Covid-19, which has proved to deadlier than the first wave of the outbreak in the highest number of death in April, is disproportionate to the risk that the outbreak poses. About 20 per cent of the Covid death took place in April and the positivity rate was 23 per cent in the month. More worrying is the fact that the new strain of the virus has affected children and youth who remained largely unaffected in the first wave. The government on April 14 imposed certain restrictions, including closure of offices and shopping malls and a ban on inter-city and inter-district transports, but eventually relaxed the restrictions in all cases except for the closure of office and the ban on inter-district transports. The media have continuously reported on the widespread violation of health safety protocols in public places. It is in this context public health experts have rightly termed the latest government steps to contain the spread of the disease as half-hearted. They have expressed serious concern at the relaxed oversight at immigration points through which people are entering from India, a neighbouring country gravely affected by the outbreak.
Public health experts are alarmed about the possible outbreak of the new South African variant as it is more virulent, takes a fatal turn quickly than the other variants do. Epidemiologists have feared that the havoc in neighbouring India has been caused by the spread of this new variant or a further mutation that is now called the Indian variant. In April, a research by the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research and the ICDDR,B found that more than 81 per cent of cases were infected with the South African variant. On Saturday, the highly contagious Indian variant of the virus is also reportedly detected in two Covid patients in Dhaka. The health minister too sounded warning in his media address that the positivity rate may increase after Eid unless the government succeeds in the strict enforcement of inter-district travel and ensures that public movement from India through land border remains strictly restricted. Despite the cautionary words, the government seems to have failed to prevent the inter-district movement of people. It has also not been able to ensure that the people returning from India maintain a mandatory institutional quarantine.
The government must, therefore, ensure that health safety protocols are strictly maintained in the frontiers with India to stop a third wave of the outbreak from happening, as predicted by public health experts. In case people are allowed to enter under special circumstances, the government must ensure that they maintain institutional quarantine for the required period. In general, the government needs to abandon its casual approach to Covid-19 health safety issues. Its response plan has so far been focused on minimising economic losses at the cost of human sufferings which may prove costly in not so distant future.
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