The new-to-human coronavirus outbreak, Covid-19, has already developed into a highly intensive global outbreak. Emerged in Wuhan, China, at the end of December 2019, the virus spread in most countries across territories on six continents and infected more than 135 million people and caused over 2.92 million deaths. The World Health Organization announced it as a pandemic in view of the severity of the coronavirus epidemic. While countries like Italy, the US, Great Britain and France are the worst victims of the first wave of Covid-19, no country has remained safe.
On the contrary, Bangladesh could overcome the devastating impact of the pandemic's first wave quite successfully. The number of patients and deaths remained relatively low compared to numerous developed countries because of the government's mature and prompt decisions. Even the country's economy was extremely successful in comparison with many of the world's giant economies. The infection rate came down below 2% one month ago, which showed a good indication of controlling the contamination rate. These optimistic indicators have made people reluctant and unwilling to comply with the Covid-19 protocols.While different countries started facing the second wave of the lethal virus, a new variant of the virus was identified in the UK and South Africa. The new variant, which can infect people 70 times faster than the previous strains, has started creating devastation in Bangladesh. Within a month, we have outnumbered our records of daily patients and deaths. The situation has turned into devastation within a few weeks, which has compelled the government to consider imposing a country-wide lockdown. Generally, imposing lockdown in a country like Bangladesh is very difficult for the government as a considerable number of its population live from hand to mouth. These groups would be severely affected if there is a lockdown in the country. It goes without denying that we are lagging behind China, the USA, the UK and other European countries from the perspective of capability. However, we must use our capabilities as best as we can to address the challenges of the Covid-19 second wave.
None can refute that the people of Bangladesh have been passing the time in anxiety - like citizens of other countries - in fear of the potential catastrophe of the second wave of Covid-19. This sort of anxiety coupled with the imposition of lockdown has made them think about storing kitchen commodities, masks, hand sanitizers, hand washes and all other necessary commodities. At this juncture, a group of dishonest businessmen has started making money capitalizing on the potential adverse effect of coronavirus. The price hike has become a grave concern to the government as price of kitchen commodities has already increased centring the upcoming Ramadan. It is ludicrous to believe that these greedy businessmen in Bangladesh have created an imaginary crisis of kitchen commodities and essential commodities necessary to tackle coronavirus while the whole world works hand in hand to fight coronavirus.
One of the potential consequences of the second wave of Covid-19 is that it could impact the country's economy very deleteriously. Due to the government's robust decisions and stimulus packages, Bangladesh's economy could manage to recover well from the catastrophe caused by first the wave of the pandemic compared with many of the giant economies. Therefore, if we fail to control the spread of the virus within a very short time, it would be challenging for us to tackle the possible negative impact of the second wave of the Covid-19.
Because of the further destruction, the Government has reversed its decision to reopen all schools remaining closed since 18 March 2019. This is a protective measure in its entirety. The government has since ordered coaching centres to stay closed. Guardians should work together by keeping their children at home. Around the same time, the government could develop specific policies to support private educational institutions in the worst phase.
The most important carriers of Covid-19 are the passengers who fly from the countries where the virus is creating destruction. As with several others, the government has placed a moratorium on travellers' entry from the various countries devastated by the second wave. For travellers arriving from abroad, quarantine has been made compulsory. It is a worthwhile idea for the government to actively consider tagging information about vaccination with the passport or national identity card, as this information will become a key document in our daily lives in the future. The government agencies should strengthen their surveillance at the airport and land ports as these are some of the most crucial roots of the transmission of this lethal virus.
Meanwhile, we have seen the shop and market owners came to the street to protest the government decision of keeping all markets and shops closed. They created pressure on the government to allow them to open markets and shops under certain conditions. However, we must admit that it is impossible to operate the country's markets and shops following Covid-19 protocol as neither the customers nor the owners follow proper protocols. Indeed, the closing of markets and shops would undoubtedly affect them negatively as they would not make money. However, at the same time, we must realize that life is more precious than money. If we do not stay alive, what will we do with the money we earn? The situation has reached a level where we must control our movement; therwise, the second outbreak of the pandemic will cause us more destruction.The citizens must also help the government avert the catastrophe of the second wave. Due to most of the citizens' reckless behaviour, the transmission of the coronavirus during the second wave has reached a dangerous level. The problem will get worse if we do not regulate our behaviour. Therefore, we should practice safer sanitation following the guidelines of the government departments and avoid overcrowding places. Most importantly, we all should wear facemasks in order to keep ourselves safe from contamination. There is no choice but to wear the mask. Moreover, we should also practice self-quarantine if someone feels that he/she has a greater risk of being contaminated. Otherwise, it would not be possible for the government to save the country from the crippling impact of the second wave of Covid-19.
The government has decided to impose a country-wide lockdown from 14 April for a week. While briefing the media, the state minister of Public Administration clearly stated that all offices, factories and public transports would remain closed. However, the owners of the industries created pressure on the government to keep their industries open. I am anxious about the outcome of the government decision as this will accelerate the rate of contamination of the virus. We must admit that the garment factory owners would have been affected economically if their factories would have remained closed. However, for the sake of the country's welfare, they should cooperate with the government.
Finally, we should not get involved in any political debate at the present moment. Covid-19 is our national crisis that should be faced collectively. The government and opposition political parties should not remain engaged in blaming each other over this issue. We know that there are disagreements among political parties on different issues. However, we also have experienced political consensus during our national crisis. Therefore, considering the enormity of the devastating effect of Covid-19, political parties, citizens, people in business, media, NGOs, and civil society should work together to face one of the most severe pandemics of this century.
The writer is a Professor of Public
Administration at the University of