Until recently frantic efforts to convey the message of mutual distancing and nose-mouth coverings for everybody’s benefit did not seem to have the importance thatCOVID 19 pandemic deservedand the undivided attention of the people appears to have been distracted from the devastation the virus carried out throughout the world. The appeal for people to stay at a safe distance from each other being the essence for harnessing further spread of the notorious virus has been received pretty casually and the risks involved taken lightly. After all, as the statistics suggested, hardly two out of one hundred patients affected by the virus actually succumbed and a significant number of the fatalities suffered from other diseased as well.
Never during peace time has anybody come across any situation wherepeople were confined within their own household, never have people felt so isolated despite presence of everybody but interned, never had anyone imagined a picture where airports would be filled with parked aircraft, railtracks covered with growing shrubs, empty river and sea ports with vessels anchored farther for safety, public transport vehicles locked away in garages. This kind of an unacceptable situation cannot be compromised by the people, the people who are so much used to freedom of movement, the freedom which can only be curtailed by the courts of law.Freedom of movement, a basic instinct, is part of the fundamental rights that every human being enjoys. Every living being in this planet moves in their own individual way, in their own time and in their own manner. So when this basic instinct is threatened by an invisible force, the mind tries to assess the situation but the thoughtsdo not want to give in. And thus the lame excuses to law enforcers for venturing out in the open.
People all over the world havesomehow witnessed these scenes, heard the warnings and fully understands the harm that may otherwise befall. People of Bangladesh are no different. On the slightest pretext, while westerners would go out to the beaches, many in this country will try to earn whatever he can, however he can, wherever he can. The people of Bangladesh, unlike westerners, are driven by the need for providing basic necessities for family members knowing fully well that there is no safety net which the westerners enjoy in their own countries. To many people of Bangladesh facing such hardship it is a much betterto at least tryindividually rather than shift the blamesof failures onto the shoulders of others.
Now that the infection rate is beginning to slow down globally it does not in any way prove conclusively that the virus will not relapse with much more ferocity and in a much more complex manner. After all, the present genetic form of COVID 19 virus has previously undergone mutilation over 300 times and if itre-emerges in a new manner, scientists will be facing the mostformidable tasks that they have to undergo in modern times. In studies being carried out in US, it is understood that the virus is continuously changing its form and differs quite a lotfrom place to place.
Early this year no government in the entire world had any idea what was about to invade the planet. It now appears that scientists, researchers could sense such a disaster was in the offing – but when and where it will strike – nobody knew. While scientists remained busy with remedies for viruses like NIPA, Ebola, SARS, etc. the progress in the laboratories continued. And the scientific advancement achieved has helped mankind leapfrog their research and testing of new drugs.
With the biggest challenge of a vaccine being developed in the near future, the need for physical distancing, mouth-nose covering, and frequent hand washing will remain in vogue as a statutory warning for several years to come. The common view that if somebody does not have any symptom is virus-free is absolutely wrong. A particular person without having any symptoms can still be infectious because his strong immune system was able to ward off the viurs attack. This sort of asymptomatic persons canpass onthe virus harboured in his body to other unsuspecting persons unknowingly. As such, at a time when everybody is a suspect irrespective of being asymptomatic or not, because the virus is here to remain for long.
Wrong information, misleading statistics, dubious news, doctored photographs,fairytale-like stories centring around COVID 19 pandemic abounds in the social media all across the globe. It is literally impossible to manage, monitor and edit the contents of the various active social media although Facebook (FB) has formed a task force to look into spread of vicious, harmful, travesties that would bring more harm to the already disaster-struck mankind. Popular TV talk shows in our countryare oversaturated with people who are good in talking; small talks, big talks, high level talks and what not. Those who appear to make deliberations are often chosen from panels of speakers with different political leanings and seldom from experts. These talk-shows often, unknowingly, send wrong signals to the viewers or mislead the audience. This is true for many a country whether developed or not. Political bickering are rife in the US with its Presidential elections slated for November and not far behind is India where the pandemic is not only the latest hot topic but also a barometer on how well the local governments and the central government are doing from their own positions. This eventually shall decide which political party gets to rule the country.Standing at the crossroads now, it is time for reckoning whether the people of Bangladesh can emerge from the critical situation in one piece. Instead of criticising government efforts in handling the crisis, there should be public and private sector initiatives not only to assist the affected people but also the battered economy.
The Bangladesh government should encourage personal and institutional approaches irrespective of political, social and religious beliefs to come to the aid of the country. The noble step by BRAC personnel to collect samples from suspected COVID-19 patients alongside government hospital collection centres deserves high appreciation and is a glorious example. Working from home (WFH) is the latest concept that the younger generation has adapted to pretty quickly. This practice ought to be taken into consideration by the public sector to discourage people from coming in close proximity to unsuspected carriers. Young people with innovative ideas should be given a chance to be heard and experts in these areas ought to ought to be consulted for alternative sustainable programmes. It is simply not possible for many politicians of our country to view its implications as they are not used to hearing others.
There are many non-political youth and non-government organisations in the country which can be approached for assistance. After all, it will be easier for the government to take appropriate action against unholy and criminal activities of any individualof those organisations because the latter remains responsible for the former and hence accountability will also be ensured.
A several million strong workforce should be developed in the country to face future catastrophic calamities. Upheavals starting from earthquakes, cyclones, floods and the likes of COVID-19, the initiation of such a workforce could be drawn from young men and youth organisations who agrees to the principles of ‘service first’ and will be expected purely on voluntary basis. And thus the hiring of potential volunteers can commence and adequate training imparted on disaster management. According to many, school going young people after appearing in their class XII exams could undergo a yearlong voluntary programme aimed at forming an army of disaster managers. Their first and foremost duty would be to provide guidance to the people of the country whenever disaster strikes. Besides training on disaster management, the young people can be provided with training on skills development which would prove beneficial for earning their livelihoods in the long run.
The author is a senior journalist and can be reached at: [email protected]