Over the last few weeks, the flood situation in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts took a terrible turn. Due to heavy rain in Cherrapunji, India and much higher rainfall than in previous years in Sylhet and adjoining areas, the flood situation became widespread. Most parts of these two districts were flooded. As a result, there was a massive obstruction in the movement of people. While there weren't many casualties during the early days, several deaths weren't desirable.
Most of the houses were underwater, and the people had a food shortage. The government took all measures to rescue the flood victims. Considering the gravity of the situation, the government deployed the army to rescue the people. Members of the Bangladesh army have served the flood victims with their skills and capabilities. Due to their relentless efforts, all kinds of activities were provided to help the flood victims. At the same time, the civil administration assisted the flood victims as per their capabilities.
The government and various private initiatives helped the flood victims. Several non-governmental organisations, including the Vidyananda Foundation, supported the flood victims with their utmost efforts. At the same time, many people came forward to help the flood victims through private initiatives in Sylhet and outside the Sylhet region. During the floods in the Sylhet region, we once again witness the image of a humane Bangladesh that we observed in the case of the Sitakunda fire in Chittagong a month ago. Everyone from all over the country extended their support to help the flood victims.
Over the past few weeks, two incidents have become the most talked-about among the people of Bangladesh. One is the inauguration of the Padma Bridge on June 25, for which the whole country was ecstatic. In the same way, the plight of the flood victims in Sylhet and Sunamganj made the people of Bangladesh think. With these two incidents, the recent upsurge in the COVID-19 infection has drawn the attention of public health experts. While writing this piece, the Cobid-19 infection rate in Bangladesh has again exceeded 15 percent. Several people have already died of Corona in the last few days.
Among the contaminated patients, Dhaka has the highest number of patients. About 80 percent of the patients are from Dhaka and its environs. The usual practice is that the infection first started in Dhaka and later spread to all parts of the country. Though the news was not taken seriously between the floods in Sylhet and the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, there was some panic among the people. We have already seen the situation worsen in China and North Korea. Even the Corona situation in the United States has deteriorated. Besides, the Corona situation has aggravated in some provinces of Pakistan and India. Therefore, it is very natural that if the Corona situation in our neighboring country gets aggravated, the case in Bangladesh will be flawed because many people go to India for various reasons.
The main reason for the recent increase in Corona infection is the reluctance of ordinary people toward Corona. After last February, when the Corona situation gradually got under control, a kind of excitement was noticed among the people. People started living an everyday life after getting out of Corona's terrible clutches that continued for more than two years. Most people did not follow the corona safety rules for the past few months. As a result, the infection rate has increased sharply over the last three weeks. The contamination rate has reached over 16 percent from just 1 percent within this period. We must remember that during the Eid-ul-Azha, many people move from Dhaka to different parts of the country to celebrate Eid with their families. As a result, if the contamination rate continues to grow at the same rate, the situation will become more complicated after Eid. We do not need to be public health experts to comprehend this.
The wave of Corona that hit the world, including Bangladesh, at the end of last year was a blow to the Omicron variant. Omicron was relatively weaker than Delta or other variants and could not have much negative impact on our country. Moreover, the government has greatly reduced the risk of human deaths by bringing more than 75 per cent of the population under vaccination. Among those who contracted Corona last year, the number of hospital admissions and deaths was low. Scientists at Jessore University of Science and Technology already discovered another variant of Omicron a few days ago. Besides, it is known through the media that most of the patients infected in Dhaka are carriers of the Delta variant. Although over 75% of people in Bangladesh have been vaccinated, their health risks will increase if a large number of people are re-infected with the coronavirus. Moreover, we do not yet know how much protection the corona vaccine can provide against the new variant. Therefore, it will be challenging to deliver hospital services if more people are infected and hospitalised.
We have already seen that the flood situation in Sylhet has improved. However, the flood situation in the northern part of the country has worsened again. As a result, if the Corona situation worsens, great adversity awaits the country as a whole. The government has already taken several drastic steps. The wearing of a mask has again been made mandatory in all. To overcome this situation, the government and the people should work together and follow the safety rules.
We have to keep in mind that the economy of Bangladesh has not been severely affected by the negative effect of Covid-19, even though the world economy has been severely affected. As a result, there is a kind of global economic downturn. We have already witnessed the collapse of the Sri Lankan economy. Many tried to say that a situation like Sri Lanka would happen in Bangladesh very soon. But since the economy of Bangladesh is in a strong position, there is no such fear. But again, if the Corona situation worsens and the government has to spend more money to deal with it, it will exert pressure on the economy.
Overall, everyone, including the government and the people, should take the issue of the recent surge in Corona infection seriously. On the one hand, the people must be motivated to abide by the Corona safety rules; on the other hand, and the government must ensure that the people abide by the safety rules. If necessary, some restrictions may be re-imposed by the government. It is not just the health sector and the economy that Corona has affected; the education sector has also been worst affected by the catastrophe. Therefore, to ensure that economy, human health and the education system are not severely affected by the pandemic's negative impact again, everyone must collectively come forward and deal with the lethal virus.
The author is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi
Source: Sun Editorial