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COVID-19: A round up and Bangladesh

Published : Wednesday, 8 April, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 215

Nizam Ahmed

Nizam Ahmed

Coronavirus is probably the only pandemic which within the three months of its outbreak spread across the world killing more than 74,000 people and infecting over 1.3 million in 183 countries as of on Monday April 7 last. In Bangladesh so far 17 people died of the virus which has infected 164 others, according to government data. It is feared that the virus will continue to rage for many more months ahead killing over millions of people in the world's 209 countries and territories.
According to the history dozens of pandemic upset the world in different ages, but most of those were regional. Coronavirus or COVID-19 probably is the most deadly of the few pandemic that infected the whole world in one go. AIDS, Swine Flu and Asian flu may be the three other pandemic that killed millions ravaging across the world for a longer time in past decades. The Asian flew raged in the middle of the last century while AIDS and Swine Flu upset the world in recent decades. Though tamed, these two ailments still cause worries among the people in different countries.
Besides the pandemic that raged in different ages, some 10,000 diseases prevail in the world often creating serious affects on the lives of individuals and the community. Some of the diseases like smallpox, leprosy polio, cholera, malaria etc are said to have been eradicated after years of struggle by scientists and physicians.
It is interesting to note that the novel coronavirus after its outbreak in Wuhan, Hubei, China quickly started spreading in Europe, the United States and Canada, least infecting most of Asia, with smaller number of deaths compared to other continents. However, situation may turn to worse in these Asian neighbours of China with special focus on populous Bangladesh where social distancing has been proved very tough. Meanwhile the pandemic has also been looming dangerously on Africa and Australia with spectacular level of infection.
So far Italy, Spain, the US, France, the UK. Iran suffered most deaths and infection, besides China, where the rate of infection has come down remarkably over the past several weeks. Italy as of on Monday last topped list of casualties with 16,523 deaths followed by Spain (13,169), US (10,328), France (8,078), UK (5,373) and Iran (3,739). against China's death toll of 3,331.
The trend in the spread of the pandemic has raised a set of unanswered questions, which include: Why most neighbouring countries were spared of big casualties? The deaths and infection in India, Japan, Taiwan, Koreas, Bangladesh and other Asian countries except Iran, are far lower compared to the aforesaid European countries and the US. However, the answer is likely to be available soon as the pundits are busy to work out the reason for favouritism on the part of the virus.
To escape from the coronavirus and prevent its spread the governments across the world took many measures including lockdown, suspension of all sort of local and international transportations and closing of all factories and industries. But still the pandemic has been dangerously raging across the world. Scientists however, expect to develop an appropriate vaccine against it, in no less than 18 months. So it is feared that the pandemic likely to take more tolls.
Had the governments not taken the measures of social distancing and the people not cooperated, the situation would have been much disastrous and the death tolls have been skyrocketed. But still there are some callous people for whom their families, communities and countries have suffering due the spread of coronavirus, which seems to be the greatest destroyer of the mankind in history.
The pandemic has become so threatening that the authorities have stopped prayer at the Islam's two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina. To keep Friday Muslim worshippers away curfew was imposed in the two holy cities last week. Five-time prayers in other mosques have also been discouraged and Muslims have been urged to pray at their homes citing advices from Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) who during a plague outbreak in his time advised disciples to pray at their homes.
The Prophet, according to historians, gave the idea of quarantine for the first time in the world advising infected people to stay at their locality and not to host guests from other localities in order to prevent spread of infection. The Prophet also advised the people not to visit a region where pandemic prevails until situation improves.
However, in Bangladesh most Muslims still do attend mosques at regular prayers including on Friday Juma prayers, despite the authorities have advised devouts to stay for minimum times at mosques. Though the government has deployed army to maintain strict social distancing, they do not interfere in mosques due to religious sensitivity. They also believe that sick people having fever, cough etc do not visit mosques generally. The prayer leaders like Imams also advise sick people to pray at homes instead of mosques. However, there is a section of Imams who believe that coronavirus won't harm Muslims who pray at mosque and beg protection from Allah.
As the death tolls and number of infection increased in the country, Bangladesh Islamic Foundation requested Muslims to perform their prayer at homes on the occasion of the upcoming holy night of Sab-e-Barat due on Thursday in order to prevent spread of coronavirus. But it is feared that the request would not be honoured by a section of Muslims religious extremists, as they believe that no virus will infect the people who congregate in mosques for prayers. If the authorities use forces to keep Muslims away from mosques on that holy night troubles may erupt at different parts of the country.
In the wake of the pandemic outbreak all major programmes in the world including the Olympic Games have been suspended on pandemic fears. Bangladesh has also postponed all political, national, cultural and sports programmes. The much publicised and cherished national programme of the year long birth centenary celebrations adopted to honour Independence Leader Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman has been cancelled. For the first time in the history people of this country will not celebrate Bangla New Year's Day on April 14 next. The Muslim Eid-ul-Fitr festival to be observed in the late May following the month-long fasting is also in uncertainty.
As the global trade including manufacturing, exports, imports, employment travel industry etc are in doldrums the future is seriously grim and uncertain. With falling exports, remittance inflow and employment at home and abroad, the coronavirus might deal a heavy blow to Bangladesh like every other affected countries. The Bangladesh economic growth which has been spectacular in past several years might show a poor performance in this ongoing fiscal year. However, the Asian Development Bank said that the growth may be affected marginally by 0.02 percent to 0.04 per cent in the current fiscal 2019-20 to keep it up over 7 percent. In the last fiscal the Bangladesh growth was 8.2 percent.
Now question is that will Bangladesh be able to escape the wrath of COVID-19, as it could do so with smaller casualties from AIDS and Swine Flu. Of the world's 35 million victims of AIDS, Bangladeshis comprised some 1,000 till 2016 and the country remains low HIV-prevalence country.
Since the first case of pandemic influenza, or swine flu, was identified in June 2009, there have been 840 diagnosed cases and six deaths from H1N1 in Bangladesh (as of March 2010). Swine flu killed nearly 600,000 people across the world and compared to other countries the casualties are far less in Bangladesh.
The Asian Flu pandemic (1957-58) according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was reported in Singapore in February 1957, Hong Kong in April 1957, and the coastal cities of the United States in the summer of 1957. The total death toll was more than 1.1 million worldwide, with 116,000 deaths occurring in the United States.
Throughout the course of history, disease outbreaks have ravaged humanity, sometimes changing the course of history and, at times, signalling the end of entire civilizations. The world has to wait a bit to witness how coronavirus changes the world's economy, development, politics and diplomatic relations.
The author is business editor,
 the Daily Observer

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