Economists, business leaders and health experts expressed mixed reaction on Monday over strict lockdown being put in place to curb second wave of Covid-19 in the country.
Economists and health experts are in favour of a balance between life and livelihood, while some business leaders think that the fresh lockdown will only hit hard small businesses and marginal people.Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) organised a virtual dialogue on Monday on ‘Second Wave of Covid-19 Pandemic: How to Address it’ to put forward some timely policy suggestions on this matter.
“Lockdown has definitely an economic impact, but it can curb spread of virus infection. Time has now come to prioritise life than livelihood,” commented Prof Mustafizur Rahman, Distinguished fellow of CPD.
Shop Owners Association President Md Helal Uddin suggested the government should assess the economic loss between lockdown during Ramadan or lockdown after it as one-third of the country’s business activities take place during the holy month.
Instead of short-term lockdown, he suggested keeping businesses open with maintaining health guidelines.
“Lockdowns are like taking antibiotic drug. Seven day’s lockdown will only harm businesses waiting for Ramadan, whereas most health experts suggested at least 21 days lockdown,” Helal remarked.
In that case, Prof Mustafizur Rahaman pointed to the fact that people are relaxed in maintaining health issue, while he also found weakness in law enforcing agencies in this regard.In this crisis moment, health experts should get more focus and their suggestions are valuable in controlling the crisis, he said.
But the lockdown must keep open the food supply chain and ensure cash transfer to the vulnerable people, he suggested.
CPD executive director Dr Fahmida Khatun said: “The rate of infections has gone higher this year compared to that of last year. Last year we noticed a relaxed lockdown.”
She put stress on a balance between life and livelihood where production should be kept running with lowering health risks.
Dr Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, convener of Bangladesh Health Watch (BSW), alleged that people has taken very little lesson from the first wave. “In some cases we’ve missed the bus,” he repented, pointing to maintaining health guidelines.
He doesn’t see necessity for imposing lockdown across the country at a time, saying that two thirds of the infections are in Dhaka.
Instead, he suggested imposing curfew in some specific areas after conducting special zoning.
Sharing his personal experience in running a hospital dealing with Covid-19 patients, Dr A M Shamim, managing director of Lab Aid Group, called for not creating panic among people about the second wave.
Even though infection has gone up, only 3-4 percent patients need hospitalization while death rate in only 0.1 percent, he pointed out.
He also called for stopping oxygen supply to industrial sector other than the health sector as demand for the life saving gas has skyrocketed amid the pandemic.
He also sought government support in importing life saving drugs as well as in breaking monopoly in medicine import.
Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, Advisor to IEDCR called for adopting a blanket approach where targeted, risk-based and tailored approach should be followed to stop infection source.
Dr A S M Alamgir, Principal Scientific Officer (SSO), Dept of Medical Entomology, IEDCR, is in favour of conducting more Covid test so that infectious people can be separated from the uninfected people.
BGMEA president-elect Faruque Hassan said garment factories should remain open, claiming that infection rate among garment workers are very low because of their young age.
He also claimed that RMG units strictly maintain health guidelines. Lockdown, on the other, hand can increase infections as workers will go home, he warned.
But some labour rights campaigners alleged that testing facilities are very limited in RMG hubs in Dhaka and Covid test of RMG workers are very low.
Former BGMEA and FBCCI leader and Lawmaker Shaifiul Islam Mohiuddin called for a concerted effort to fight the second wave of Coronavirus.