479Published on March 23, 2020
Pranab Kumar Panday:
Covid-19, the disease caused by the new-to-humans coronavirus, has already turned into an epidemic all over the world with great intensity. Emerging from China during late December 2019, it has spread to at least 114 countries over territories of six continents, infecting more than 1.8 lakh people. Considering the intensity of the outbreak of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization has declared it as a pandemic. Although the worst victims of Covid-19 are countries like China, Italy, France, Iran, and South Korea, no country is safe now.
The virus has started spreading in South Asia very recently. The outbreak has started in India and then got spread in some neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh and Pakistan. In Bangladesh, the spread of this virus started with three people, among them two came from Italy. The government of Bangladesh is taking all-out preparations to face the catastrophe of the coronavirus. We all know that, from the perspective of capability, we are lagging as compared to countries like China and Italy. But, we will have to make the best use of whatever capabilities we have the face the challenge of Covid-19.
Centring the issue of Covid-19 we have been getting different types of information from several sources. Most importantly, the spread of unauthentic information in social media is making people tensed about the possible consequence of this virus. However, having considered the overall statistics provided by the WHO and other international organisations, we could get the impression that the consequence of Covid-19 is not as devastating as we are considering it. Of course, every virus can hurt any body’s health and even it can force people to die. But, to stop catastrophe we need to practise safer sanitation behaviours including handwashing and maintaining distance from the infected people, avoid crowded places and remain careful while coughing or sneezing.
Having closely observed the reporting of the Covid-19 all over the world, including Bangladesh I have got a feeling that the catastrophe has started reducing in China and increasing in Italy. To face the catastrophe of Covid-19 countries have adopted different strategies. For instance, the Indian government has suspended issuing of visas for all countries for a month starting from 13th of this month. Some provinces of China, including Wuhan, were kept under quarantine for more than two months. The same has happened in Italy, France and other countries. The US government has issued a ban on visiting Europe for its citizens. One of the most important strategies to deal with Covid-19 is to remain in isolation if someone gets infected. Even the government of Bangladesh has been consistently requesting their citizens to avoid overcrowded places and remain in self-quarantine for the people coming from overseas countries. Very recently, the government has made quarantine compulsory for those who are coming to Bangladesh from some countries where the virus has spread very extensively. Different government officials, including ministers, are requesting all the expatriates not to come to Bangladesh during this period unless they are forced by the circumstances.
It is no denying the fact that the people of Bangladesh have been passing time in anxiety-like citizens of other countries as regards the possible catastrophe of Covid-19. This sort of anxiety has made them very cautious to store kitchen commodities, masks, hand sanitizers, hand washes and all other necessary commodities. In this juncture, a group of dishonest businessmen have started making money capitalising on the possible negative effect of the coronavirus. It is absurd that when all the communities across the world are working hand in hand to fight against coronavirus, these dishonest businessmen in Bangladesh are creating an artificial crisis of masks and hand sanitizers and other commodities that are considered important to face the catastrophe of Covid-19.
Historically, people of Bangladesh tend to create panic in any situation. Therefore, many of us have been trying to increase their stock of these products. This has created scope for these businessmen to make money. Despite having directive of the honourable court, these products are still sold in several times higher prices than its original price as many businessmen are holding the stock. Thus, Covid-19 has created an opportunity of making money for them. I wonder whether they have their conscience or not. When the whole nations are passing time in anxiety they are busy in making money manipulating business ethics. In the last few days, we have seen that different organizations of the government have been patrolling market but more patrolling is needed to control the market.
Considering the enormity of the situation the government of Bangladesh has postponed most of the scheduled open programmes of the centenary of Bangabandhu's birth anniversary. They deserve appreciation for taking such a timely decision. Even, the government has advised all to avoid all programmes that would create overcrowding of people.
One of the negative consequences of Covid-19 is that it could impact the country’s economy very negatively. We have seen that the Chinese’s economy has gone down to a great extent. Even our economy could go down by the devastation of Covid-19. For instance, if the import of raw materials does not start very soon our garment industry would seriously get affected. On the other hand, the export of shrimps and crabs from Bangladesh has already been stopped and the businessmen in these sectors have started incurring huge losses. If the virus gets spread heavily in Bangladesh like other countries of the world, it would be very difficult for us to carry the possible negative impact of Covid-19.
The government, considering the further devastation, has decided to shut down all educational institutions until 31st of March from the 18th of March. This is a well-thought-out preventive measure. The government has also instructed all the coaching centres to remain closed. To capitalise the benefits of this decision all guardians should cooperate by keeping their children at homes.
One of the most significant carriers of Covid-19 is the passengers travelling from those countries where Covid-19 has taken a devastating state. Therefore, like many other countries, the government has imposed a ban on issuing of on arrival visas. They have also imposed a ban on the entry of passengers originating their travel from European countries excepting the UK. The government should have taken the decision a few days earlier as all reported cases of infected patients as of now have a history of returning from Europe. Moreover, testing of corona passengers at different lands and airports has been criticised. It has been reported in media that the responsible authorities are taking money while issuing medical certificates at the airports. The government should not only increase the thermal scanners and other kits for testing passengers at the borders and airports, but they should also increase their surveillance to make sure that all passengers are getting checked appropriately while entering into the country. Otherwise, we would not be able to stop this catastrophe.
The citizens should also support the government in preventing the catastrophe of Covid-19. We should practise safer sanitation following the guidelines of the government departments and avoid overcrowded places. Moreover, we should also practise self-quarantine if someone feels that they have a greater risk of being infected. Otherwise, it would not be possible for the government only to save the country from the devastating effect of Covid-19.
Finally, we should not get involved in any sort of 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 on this issue. We know that there are disagreements among political parties on different issues. But, we also have experienced political consensus during our national crisis. Therefore, considering the enormity of the devastating effect of Covid-19, both the ruling and opposition parties should work together to face one of the most severe epidemics of this century.
Writer: Professor of Public Administration and Additional Director of the Institutional Quality Assurance Cell (IQAC), University of Rajshahi.