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Make use of mask, gloves mandatory

It’s time to introduce protective gears law

Published : Thursday, 28 May, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 1237
Observer Special

As we are about to step into the second half of 2020 relaxing the lockdown and risking the transmission of coronavirus, it is time to seriously consider to legalize the usage of all types of protective gears, especially face mask and hand gloves, to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. Officially registered confirmed cases of Coronavirus positive in the country on Wednesday (yesterday) stands at 38, 292 of whom. 7, 925 persons have recovered while 544 have lost their lives. It is worrying to note that the daily death toll now reached a double digit number and the number of infection is also rising.   

The point, however, the new normal of the post - pandemic world is that we as responsible human beings will have to be liable for our personal safety and security. And most importantly, we will have to move on to the future by leading parallel reality-both life and living - otherwise coexist with COVID - 19.
Similar to many other countries, Bangladesh too is about to reopen from next month.  The Prime Minister's pre - Eid address to the nation had given clear hints that the government is forthright about reopening the country for saving lives and      livelihoods. The Ministry of Establishment is all set to make a public announcement today (Thursday) not to further extent the general holidays lockdown after May 30.

In order to save lives and keep the country running, we will have to take the risk of reopening and some will get infected in the process for protecting the lives of others. All together the war against the pandemic will come at a cost one way or the other. After about two month long lockdown a time has now come to think which one is more important-life or livelyhood. The answer both are crucial. Simultaneously, we will have to combat the pandemic by adopting the highest standard of preparedness.

However, by placing the personal safety and protection issue on top, we believe it is essential to place and pass a law regarding the negligence in using protective gears by our citizens.
We can draw firsthand example from Qatar in this regard - the country has launched the world's toughest penalties of up to three years in jail for failing to wear masks in public. More than 30,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the tiny Gulf country - 1.1 percent of the total population of 2.75 million - although just 15 people have died. The micro-states of San Marino and the Vatican had higher per-capita infection rates.

In India's Chennai, The Greater Chennai Corporation on last Wednesday announced that fine would be levied on those stepping out without wearing masks. We have marked the steep rise of death and infection rates in the past days. Even though, intentional crowding out in the open spaces, kitchen markets, shops and streets is the key reason for the spreading of the virus but sloppy and careless lifestyle is also one of the reasons. As per numerable media reports, many people outside their homes are not using masks and not washing their hands properly with sanitizers. This happy-go-lucky attitude must change. Only government instructions and regulations or requests will not improve the situation. It is time to issue health precautionary measures through a legal framework.

If necessary, the introduction of the new law can well begin with corporeal punishment at shops, markets and streets. The crux of the matter is that our citizens will have to use protective equipment gears as an indispensable item in their daily life. If law can be made to prohibit smoking in public places then why there can't be law to make use of face mask and hand gloves mandatory in public places to contain the spread of Covid-19?

It is true that the usage of disposable and washable masks, gloves and hand sanitizers have relatively increased than in the past. That said - it is also important for our local manufacturers to scale up the production of all types of personal protective equipments. (PPE), including masks, hand gloves and sanitizer. In fact, our RMG sector can benefit by exporting PPE gears to USA, Europe and newer countries. It can well be one of our niche export items. The government should ask some garment factories to produce the PPE, masks and gloves for domestic use. Similarly, some medicine companies should be directed to produce hand sanitizer for mass use.

Apart from increased production, it is also imperative to ensure quality and fair price of all types of personal protection equipments. Prices of all protective gears must well be within the public's affordable range.

We request our law enforcement agencies and monitoring bodies to keep an eye on the matter round the clock. We have seen how a sinister syndicate had illegally hiked the price of face masks and hand sanitizer in the first months of the pandemic, and we do not expect the crime to repeat once more.

We feel our proposed new law can also incorporate a provision for our public and private healthcare system. The Coronavirus pandemic has laid bare the numerous flaws and limitations of the country's healthcare system. Especially private clinics and hospitals have not been responsive to admit and treat COVID - 19 patients due to self-centered profiteering interests. All patients deserve equal rights in the eye of law. Our hospitals and private clinics must shun the malpractice for discriminating COVID-19 patients with the rest.

That said - all public and private healthcare facilities must be equipped with COVID-19 testing facilities. Any hospital which is missing a testing facility must be made liable to law. The same stands for installing ventilator machines in hospitals according to their respective space, manpower and budget. Following increased number of deaths, it is time to gear up the importing ventilators or if possible manufacture the much needed ventilators at home. Thus, testing facilities and ventilators must become integral parts of all our hospitals. There has to be facilities for corona testing centres all over the country, especially in RMG and industrial zones, to ensure easy and mass access to corona testing.
Last of all, equally important as the law itself - is its proper countrywide enforcement. Government's authorities, particularly health ministry and law enforcing agencies must be strict to implement the Protective Gears Act, once it is passed as a law.  A law without proper enforcement is a mere paper tiger. As the law is intended for peoples wellbeing, the public must come forward to aid in its enforcement. Additionally, the media can play an important role to carry out countrywide campaigning of the new legal instrument to combat Covid-19 as it is going to prolong and it will take time to find its medicine. Moreover, there is prediction that more such virus are likely to come as pandemic in future.

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