When the delta variant sparked the third wave of the COVID-19 in Bangladesh, the government had to enforce a series of stringent lockdowns in June-July. After a month of strict lockdown, the contamination rate began to decline. The government decided to reopen mills, factories, transportations and offices on complying with safety rules to ensure a balance between the livelihoods of the victims of the third wave. Due to enforcement of a stringent lockdown, the daily positive patients rate has dropped to around 12 to 13 per cent in the last few days, which was approximately 25 to 30 per cent a couple of weeks before. At the same time, the death rate has also come down from around 100, which was over 200 in the last month. Therefore, it is satisfying to remark that there is a major turnaround in the situation of COVID-19 in Bangladesh compared to the devastation a month ago. Yet, if no death is desirable, we have to put death to zero.
Leading scientists across the globe and the World Health Organization have stressed the importance on maintaining safety measures in dealing with Corona right from the outset of its emergence. By keeping individuals at home following safety rules and enforcing lockdown, infection rates can be reduced. Just as this is a fact, how rational is the implementation of long-term lockdown in a developing country, like Bangladesh, to cope with COVID-19? We are aware that a significant portion of Bangladesh's population lives from hand to mouth. Lockdown is a burden to these classes since they remain dilemmatic about how to sustain their livelihood the next day if they do not work one day. In such a circumstance, the execution of lockdown week after week or month after month is not a practical solution to this problem.
In the third wave, the misery of the poor is the same as in the previous two waves. This time, diverse groups, including very poor, unemployed and returnee immigrant workers, were also provided with direct monetary support. The government continues to sell kitchen commodities at a reasonable price through Open Market Sales (OMS). They have also gradually opened factories and apparel industries to balance life and livelihoods during the lockdown. But it was a difficult period for employees on public transit, rickshaw pullers and everyday labourers. Although the government has provided numerous forms of support to different groups of people during the past one and a half years, they cannot satisfy all the needs of low-income families because of resource constraints. Every individual and organisation should thus come with their support for the working-class families during the worst possible times of the century.
Of course, everyone, rich and poor alike, leads a horrible existence, especially during the lockdown. However, it must be understood that the government takes decisions like lockdown to save people's lives. Corona is a type of virus that the developed world is also struggling to cope with. Therefore, we must accept the agony we are undergoing. Immediately after the declining tendency of the contamination rate in the third wave, I felt a sense of recklessness among ordinary people. Many people have begun to visit various locations and move freely without following the COVID-19 safety protocol. There are thousands of visitors visiting Cox's Bazar. Thousands of individuals have started taking part in different programs in which it is not possible to follow safety regulations. We all know that the widespread presence of the third wave of Corona in the country was hastened because of the recklessness of the population a few months back.
Thus, there exists a dread among most people thinking the possibility of the fourth wave of the deadly virus in the county in a few weeks if the majority of the population again starts to become reckless in such a situation when the transmission rate starts to decrease. We have already learnt that recognising the miseries of the transport workers and the passengers the government has opened the movement of public transport on certain conditions. If we do not use public transport in compliance with COVID-19 safety procedure, we have to face the horrors of recent months again. Regardless of what the government decides, it is extremely vital to implement that decision properly. If the government intends to normalise everything, including public transit, all parties must assure compliance with the safety regulations; otherwise, we will not have to wait too long for the fourth wave.
We saw a few months earlier in Bangladesh that corona patients were screaming out for treatment. There was an urgent crisis of ICUs with regular beds in hospitals of many regions of the country. Families of many dying patients have had to visit from hospital to hospital for a bed or an ICU. We must deal with that once again if we forget the memories of the recent past due to the declining infection rate. The Bengalis are best known for forgetting history. The day isn't far off when we may need to go from one hospital to another to deal with the fourth wave of Corona. The government might have to apply a strict lockdown again if we violate safety standards and travel for our luxury.
If the government and people don't cooperate with one another during the greatest disaster of the century, the corona-pandemic trauma looks to be protracted. Until now, we do not know how long the Coronavirus will continue to afflict our world. None of the vaccines discovered so far can provide long-lasting protection against coronavirus infection. Therefore, we must go ahead with this lethal virus.
The writer is a Professor of Public
Administration, University of Rajshahi