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Combating COVID-19: Public awareness is the best approach

Published : Wednesday, 8 April, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 203
Mohammad Fazlur Rahman Khan

Mohammad Fazlur Rahman Khan

Mohammad Fazlur Rahman Khan

When human civilization has reached the entrance of Fourth Industrial Revolution through the multidimensional usages of artificial intelligence and information technology, its speed is slowing down by the sudden attack of an unknown microbe.
The entire world is now on the verge of getting infected by a virus of the Corona tribe. The new disease is named as COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO). The Johns Hopkins University of the United States says that as on April 7, some 13,50,564 people have been infected with the virus, and about 74,861 have died worldwide.
Although efforts by scientists have continued, no effective drug has been discovered to face the infection. Concern organizations opined that the world will have to wait at least one year for the vaccine of COVID-19. According to the relevant experts,the best way to prevent the spread of this infectious disease is to follow the 'social distance' instruction of the WHO. The virus already transmitted to 208 countries and regions of the world in the last three months.
According to the American Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the genetic structure of the new virus has been changing rapidly. For this reason,COVID-19 detection system is not same in every country. Countries with advanced technology have developed their own methods for the detection of the Novel Corona virus and WHO is helping those who do not have the ability.
Some countries have adopted rigorous programs such as full or partial lockdowns or shutdowns to prevent the spread of corona. A large number of potentially infected people have been brought under laboratory tests. And with the proper application of all these activities, the transmission of COVID-19 has been greatly controlled in Wuhan and other provinces of China.  
South Korea has set a bright example in controlling COVID-19. The country has focused its attention on implementing a public oriented program to create the necessary public awareness. Due to the sudden growth of infections in late February, the South Korean government has been exposed the identification process with the aim of bringing a large number of suspected victims under laboratory tests. In addition, the country also providing the necessary treatment facilities for the victims.  As of March 17, around 2,50,000 people out of 50 milliontotalpopulation were brought under laboratory tests.
Consequently, a large number of patients have been provided with the same diagnosis and treatment.  In addition, the government announced a fine of up to $ 2,500 for violations of quarantine or isolation rules.  As a result of the Korean government's initiative, the number of new COVID-19 infected patients have been dropped to 47 on April 6, which was 999 on February 28.
Review of Johns Hopkins University's statistics and WHO's Situation Reports reveals that the COVID-19 conditions of the European and North American countries with advanced technology are most critical. The statistics reveals that among European countries,Italy and Spain have the highest rates of COVID-I9 infection and mortality. In Italy, Club football matches were scheduled to take place in the weeks after the first Corona patient was detected on January 26.
The gathering is also going on in the bars. The key instruction of maintaining 'social distance' for preventing Corona, didn't draw the attention of the people. Therefore, COVID-19 infection is widely spread in these countries within a short period of time. When a large number of people are starting to get sick, the country has been moving towards harsher programs like lockdown. But in the meantime, virus spread across the country.
Correspondingly, the first COVID-19 patient was diagnosed in the United States on January 20.  Researchers invented a US-based method for detecting COVID-19 on January 24.  But the Trump administration couldn't raise sufficient plan to create a widespread public awareness regarding COVID-19. The identification of victims and the spread of the disease didn't get proper attention.  However, in the third week of February, the White House also claimed that the Corona situation was under their full control.
The Trump administration's claim of controlling Corona, seems futile in March, when the number of COVID-19 attacks have been increasing and the procession of death becomes longer. In such circumstances, on March 30 the most reliable member of the US task force for preventing COVID-19, Dr. Anthony Fouchi conveyed that "Even if we obey the necessary rules along with restrictions of social distances that we now have, minimum 1 to 2 Lakh people in the United States will be death.
If you do not, then the number can be pushed to 1 million." On April 6, the 8th day of Fouchi's warning, Johns Hopkins University reported that a total of 3,40,371 people were infected with COVID-19 in the United States and 9,710 have died.Corona experience of South Korea and Europe-America has well stated the significance of public awareness and public engagement in combating COVD-19.
In Bangladesh, the first COVID-I9 infected patient was identified on March 8. Despite some delays, the government took several important steps to prevent Novel Corona. In order to avoid public gathering, almost all the ceremonies of the birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were suspended from March 17. The program of Independence Day was cancelled and announced general leave from March 26.  At the same time, the embargo was imposed on all types of public transport except emergency services which was subsequently extended until April 14. In addition the government initiate some program for increasing public awareness. As well state restrictions were imposed to maintain social distance.  And the members of the Defence Force have been deployed along with the police to enforce these rules.
But media reports reveal that the crowds on the city's streets have not yet controlled up to expected level. Moreover, regular chat is going on in the village markets. Moreover, various prejudices are being seen in social media and in personal interactions, rather than the awareness needed to prevent corona. The government is already launched 14 establishments to identify COVID-19 patients, including the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), Dhaka. According to IEDCR, 123 COVID-19 infected patients has been identified in the country till April 6.
In this circumstances, many people believe that COVID-19 will not spread severely in the current warm weather of Bangladesh. Regarding this issue, Dr Rumi Ahmed Khan, director of the training program at Orlando Regional Medical Center in Florida, USA, said in an interview with Daily Prathom Alo on March 29, "In hot weather it (Novel Corona) may not survive as long as winter. But it is very contagious, so they infect the human body with little chance of survival.
After entering the human body, they grow at the same temperature. The temperature of the human body is the same in all weathers, so it can't be said that it will not rise because of the heat. Present temperature of Miami is more than in Bangladesh. Almost the same in Louisiana. These areas are the two most severely affected areas in the United States."
On the other hand, some media have been reported, in line with some content analysis based research papers, that the number of COVID-19 infections is still low in the countries that are under the BCG vaccination program to prevent tuberculosis.  And since the program has been running in Bangladesh, the probability of transmission of COVID-19 in our country is very low.  However, experts say that without laboratory-based research, there is no opportunity to come into such conclusion.  Such misleading beliefs have made our general people unconscious to the precautionary measures to prevent COVID-19.
Another considerable factor is our relief activities for the marginal income people. Because, due to corona warnings their income opportunities are being constrained. But people who come forward with the help of such resource less people, do not obey the "social distance" instruction.  As a result, both donors and recipients are falling at sever corona risk. Therefore, comprehensive planning is needed to secure relief activities. Upazila-based low-income people's database can be developed with the integrated initiative of various government and non-government organizations. Relief materials provided by different individuals and organizations can be distributed among the poor on a regular basis under the supervision of a single government authority.
 In Bangladesh, two opposite and disappointing images of Corona awareness are appearing. On one hand, a large number of people are carelessly avoiding the guidance of government and WHO. On the other hand, some people are inhumanly acting by creating obstacles in burial of dead body of the corona infected patient.
However, WHO has already stated in a written notice that there is no possibility of spreading infection from the grave of a person who died of COVID-I9. WHO further states that wearing hand gloves and plastic gowns is enough for avoiding the fluid emitted from the dead body during bath and burial. Hence, there is no chance of contamination from careful burial activities of dead body.
So as to combat Corona, we must move towards a coordinated public engagement program like South Korea.  Following the directions of the Honourable Prime Minister, the scope of laboratory tests should be extended to the grassroots level.  In each district, at least one well-equipped laboratory should be established within the short period of time. Every day 15,000 to 20,000 potential suspects should be brought under laboratory tests in order to inform everyone about the real situation of the country. All stakeholders should be involved into the COVID-19 combating process. Standardized treatment system for the victims should also be ensured. It is hoped that such coordinated initiatives will help us to overcome the disappointing time of the COVID-19 and reaching the dreamy working days of the fourth industrial revolution.
Dr Mohammad Fazlur Rahman Khan, Assistant professor (Accounting) Mymensingh Government College, Mymensingh

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