Since the emergence of new deadly variants, which are highly contagious and first detected in the UK, Brazil and South Africa, the resurgence of coronavirus cases has been taking its toll on life and livelihood. Countries are trying everything under the sun, including closing borders, suspending flights, and putting towns or cities in lockdown to contain the spread of the virus. Bangladesh, which has been witnessing gradual spikes in new cases and death tolls since the 2nd week of March, is no exception. It has recently issued 18-point instructions, followed by a countrywide week-long lockdown in response to prevailing as well as impending emergency. Even the Prime Minister in a parliament speech a few days ago sounded a clarion call to the countrymen to cooperate with her government and follow health protocols. Invariably, like every major crisis, many people this time too took to social media in no time to launch broadsides against the government. Many such posts with government-bashing comments are doing the rounds on Facebook or social networking sites, with the sole intention of passing the buck entirely onto the concerned agencies for the turbocharged spread of infections. But are we, the citizens, doing our part? Well, a reality check will say otherwise.
These days, no matter wherever you go: be it to a wet market, shopping mall, public places, restaurants, entertainment facilities, or on the roads, footpaths or transports, you will find the majority of the people there carrying out daily activities barefaced like business as usual. Asked anyone of them as to why not put on a mask, you will inevitably be in for a rude awakening by a barrage of inexplicable pretexts for being non-compliance. For instance, you will hear something like: ‘I feel suffocation, dizziness or headache with mask’, ‘It’s not going to catch me’, ‘I don't need a mask as I've already had Covid-19’, ‘It's not going to make much of a difference’, ‘Muslim will not come down with the disease’, or ‘Covid-19 only infects well-off people’.Unfortunately, such a propensity for giving flimsy excuses is not uncommon in the higher educated and skilled professionals, let alone illiterate and semi-literate. Lack of awareness and social responsibility are to blame for such attitudes. To make matters worse, a good number of people just taking the first dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab were reported to have let their guard down. Wearing a false sense of security, they were seen needlessly coming out, taking part in packed social events or get-together, and travelling to entertainment facilities in droves in remote areas, conveniently flouting Covid-19 rules and health principles. Nevertheless, health experts, since the onset of the inoculation campaigns, flagged up such practices and emphasised maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and washing hands even after taking the Covid-19 shot.
As a matter of fact, no Covid-19 vaccine makers have so far claimed that their jabs work well against transmission of infection; rather, its purpose is to prevent people from getting severely ill with the disease and cut down on caseloads and hospitalisations. So, adhering to health guidelines is a safe bet in fighting the infection, to say the least.
As of preparing the piece on the 2nd day of April, citizens were yet bombarded with the news of record-breaking positive cases, hitting the new high of over 6800 cases in 24 hours. With infection rates surpassing every passing day, a sense of doom is hanging over the entire nation.
As things stand, the government is doing what it can by mobilising resources and reinforcing its efforts to enforce shutdown, issuing directives as to do’s and don’ts alongside the vaccination programme. Besides, amid slow pace in immunisation programmes owing to the paucity of supply, the news of the government’s initiative of producing vaccines locally in assistance with pharma-giant AstraZeneca, the project which is still up in the air, is indeed praiseworthy and reassuring. When all’s said and done, it is the citizen who must take it upon themselves to get through the crises. Global and national health experts stressed ad infinitum the need for maintaining social distancing as they find it one of the easiest but important ways to keep pandemic at bay.
This paper in a report on April 2 quoted the director of IEDCR as saying that coronavirus cases may drive down in three weeks at the end of April, provided that people unfailingly stuck to health guidelines and the inoculation programme picked up the pace. But, wait! Do not count your chickens before they are hatched. After all, the re-emergence of the crisis requires us to reset our expectations and make behavioural changes, which is indeed a tall order.
It would not be exaggerated to say, the current infection rates have thrived on our errors. The headway we made in bringing down the rates in the last few months has been dwarfed by our defiance of health principles. Nonetheless, despite the prevailing sense of foreboding, for proverbial chickens coming home to roost, we must not lose heart as every cloud has a silver lining. So, we have to grin and bear it in order to wait out the crisis.With the governmental restrictions in place, we must not let our patience be wearing thin and fumble the opportunity. We should make the best use of it by staying put, avoiding crowds or gathering, reading books, learning new skills, counting our blessings, or coming to the aid of others. Only with citizenry doing their part, excluding the governmental measures, can we rise to the emerging challenge and hold out our hope to see the light at the end of the tunnel soon.
The writer is an Associate Engineer, Thakral Information Systems Pvt. Ltd. Email: [email protected]