When the second wave of the Coronavirus took a severe turn in Bangladesh, the government was compelled to enforce a strict lockdown from April 14. After a week of stringent lockdown, the government decided to reopen mills and factories on complying with safety rules, considering people's livelihood during the second wave. We have already noticed the positive impact of the three-week lockdown on the rate of corona infection. Three weeks ago, the daily rate of corona positive patients was 22 to 25, which has dropped to 8-9 per cent in the last few days. At the same time, the death rate has come down to around 40. Therefore, it is satisfying to state that this is a very positive change in the Covid-19 situation in Bangladesh compared to its devastation in India though no death is expected from Covid-19 infection.From the very onset of its emergence, leading scientists worldwide and World Health Organization have emphasised safety precautions in dealing with Corona. The infection rate can be reduced by keeping people at home, following safety rules and enforcing lockdowns. Just as this is a reality, another reality is how logical this long-term lockdown in dealing with Covid-19 in the economy of a developing country like Bangladesh is? We know that a large section of the total population of Bangladesh lives from hand to mouth. Lockdown is a curse for this class of people because if they do not work one day, they remain in a dilemma finding ways to maintain their livelihood the next day. In such a situation, implementing lockdown week after week or month after month is a daunting task for the government.
The government tried to deal with the first wave of corona infection by declaring public holidays, which lasted for about two months. Even at that time, this class of people experienced a very miserable life. However, the government tried its best to reduce the sufferings of the poor by providing various forms of assistance. The government, various social, business and private organisations helped these poor people from their respective positions. On the other hand, the government also kept the wheel of the economy in motion by implementing major economic recovery packages. Through the tireless efforts of everyone, we could manage to overcome the first wave of the Coronavirus with great success. The Hon'ble Prime minister's matured leadership, who led the whole process from the front, helped us return to new normal life in a very short time.
The suffering of the poor during the second wave is the same as before. This time too, the government tried to provide enough assistance to the needy people. The Prime Minister has announced direct cash assistance (TK 2500 to each family) for about 3.6 million families before Eid. The open market sale (OMS) provides kitchen commodities to low-income people at a fair price, and factories and garments have been opened during the lockdown to balance life and livelihoods. However, public transport workers, rickshaw pullers, and daily workers are having a hard time. Since we all are approaching Eid, they will have more challenges in the future. However, the government has said it will provide as much assistance as possible to all needy people. Along with the government, I think it is the responsibility of all people and groups from different sections of society to come forward to help the people in need.
It goes without saying that everyone, rich and poor alike, lives a miserable life during the Corona pandemic, especially during the lockdown. However, we have to keep in mind that the government is implementing decisions like lockdown to save people's lives. Corona is a type of virus that the developed world is struggling to cope with. Therefore, we must accept the suffering we are enduring. Immediately after the first wave of the Corona pandemic was brought under control, I noticed a sense of desperation among the common people. A large part of people visited different places without following the Covid-19 protocol. Two and a half lakh people were seen in Cox's Bazar in one day. Thousands of people participated in various programs where a maintaining safety rule was not possible. As a result of this reckless behaviour of the citizens, the spread of the second wave of Corona has been accelerated in our country.
Therefore, there is a fear among the majority of the people concerning that if the rate of transmission of the second wave of the Coronavirus is brought under control and if the general public becomes reluctant again, we may be victims of the third wave of Corona pandemic again in a few weeks. We have already learnt that the government had opened public transport within the district before Eid, considering the plight of public transport workers. It is very natural for the citizens to go for Eid shopping and visit their relatives staying in the villages ahead of Eid. If we do not follow the Covid-19 safety protocol in this process, we have to experience the miseries of the last month. Whatever decision the government makes, its proper implementation is very important. If the government decides to normalise everything, including public transport, they must ensure that people abide by the safety rules before Eid. Moreover, if that does not happen, we do not have to wait too long for the third wave of the Corona pandemic.
We saw Corona patients to cry out for services a couple of weeks back. There was an acute crisis of ICUs and normal beds in hospitals in different parts of the country. In that situation, relatives of many dying patients had to travel from one hospital to another for a bed or ICU. If we forget those memories of the recent past due to the declining infection rate, we will have to face a similar situation again. We Bengalis easily forget our memories. Forgetting the memories of the last two months of corona catastrophe, if we do not follow the safety rules again and start itinerant for our luxury, the day is not far when we will have to go from one hospital to another to deal with the third wave of Corona and the government will have to enforce stringent lockdown again.During the worst ever catastrophe of the century, if the government and the people do not work collectively, overcoming the trauma of the corona pandemic seems to be prolonged. So far, it has not been scientifically confirmed how long the Coronavirus will continue to plague our planet. This is because none of the vaccines that have been discovered so far will provide permanent protection against coronavirus infection. However, we have to move forward with this virus. On the way forward, we must adhere to the World Health Organization and government-imposed coronary safety rules (such as wearing masks when going out, washing hands frequently, ensuring social distancing to avoid crowds). Only then the contamination of the Coronavirus can be controlled. Finally, I expect that we should not become complacent, seeing the reducing rate of contamination. Moreover, if we start behaving recklessly, the government will have to enforce lockdown to deal with the third wave, and we will have to live a miserable life again.
The writer is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi.