Grave concerns lie with Covid-19 disaster
The COVID-19 scenario has worsened in Bangladesh during the last few weeks while we are approaching Eid-ul-Adha, the second largest religious festival of the Muslim-majority country, tomorrow. People are rushing to the cattle markets and their ancestral homes in numbers without following any COVID-19 safety guidelines. The 'Delta' variant is creating havoc despite countrywide lockdown for weeks. The lack of awareness among people is worsening the situation. Considering the demographic and economic structure of Bangladesh, it is very hard to control COVID-19 spread and transmission with lockdown. Hence, we need to focus on some small but critical areas to control this disaster.
Unlike previous waves, the third wave of COVID-19 has spread to the rural areas of Bangladesh first. The awareness about the disastrous impact of this deadly virus is very low in those areas. Moreover, people at those areas are very reluctant to take vaccines. As millions of people have gone to these rural areas to celebrate Eid-ul-Adha with their family from large cities like Dhaka and will come back after Eid, we are afraid that the situation will get out of hand and similarly like India, the impact will be fierce.
The vaccination drive is going on throughout the country as we have recently piled up vaccines from different countries. People are receiving vaccines both at the cities as well as at the suburbs. Though the pace of the vaccination is not satisfactory yet, we can expect steady vaccination drive for a while now. But it is a must to fasten the vaccination program as in the long run, it can come out as a tool to fight against COVID-19 though even if our full population is vaccinated within few years at the current pace, we will require vaccine again for those who are vaccinated continuously. So, it will be a continuous process. Moreover, there are few small areas where this vaccination program should concentrate too.
The workers from our country, who earns remittance by working abroad, have faced lots of difficulty getting their vaccines. The jobs abroad were at stake. Recently, they have been receiving vaccines. They are the people who helped our economy a lot during this COVID-19 pandemic by earning foreign currency. During this disastrous time also we kept making new records in earning remittance. We should have ensured their vaccination much earlier as well as should have made the process of availing vaccines easier for them. They are facing a lot of troubles to get the vaccine. They should not visit Dhaka only to receive the vaccine as that creates extra cost and trouble for them especially during the lockdown. Moreover, the way they are being treated at the vaccination centers is against their dignity.
We must realize that the remittance generating people are very important for our country. We should take every step to make this vaccination process comfortable for them. Almost everyone of them have come to Bangladesh on vacation and went to their families at village or other rural areas. We must conduct the vaccination of these workers at the own upazila. They should register at their upazila sadar and should receive their vaccines there without any hassle. We must treat them with priority as well. Moreover, the communication related to the vaccination should be crystal clear to them as they are not very educated. The government must enhance the vaccination drive for these people immediately.
We have been through several lockdowns. But almost every time the factories especially the RMG factories were open. Many took this as a weak stand of the government as well as arrogance of the RMG factory owners. But if anyone knows the nitty-gritty of garments factory operations, he will realize that, keeping these factories shut will bring in heavy losses that the owners cannot afford. They might even go up to the point of shutting down their businesses. Moreover, if foreign buyers of our garments products start souring products from other buyers, who are very much available in the global market, then it will be very difficult to regain the market. As a result, many people will lose their jobs and the economy will take a heavy hit. So, rather than keeping these factories closed, we should focus on other solutions.
We must start vaccinating these factory workers as priority as well. Vaccination of RMG factory workers has started recently. They should be treated as front-liners with utmost priority. The government in collaboration with the factory owners has to ensure cent per cent factory workers' vaccination as early as possible. Our economy is not in a position to bear the burden of heavy unemployment as well revenue losses. The government should also ensure public transport for only these factory workers during lockdown if the factories are kept open. Our workers do not earn much to spend huge money on their transportation to the factories. They must should their factory ID card to avail those public transports.
Recently, we are seeing long lines in front of the TCB trucks to purchase commodity products at lower prices. Not only the people from the lower income families but also that of middle income families are opting for this option now as the COVID-19 has shrunk our purchasing power. But the way these lines are being maintained will increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission. TCB should send two trucks at every ward of Dhaka city twice a day at a fixed place. At the morning, these trucks should sell vegetables and other kitchen items and groceries in the afternoon. The products should be pre-packed like; all grocery items should come in packs or half and 1 kg. Weighing the products at the top of open trucks keeping hundreds waiting in line actually create scopes of stealing in weight. TCB should ensure that the products are served in right quantity to the people. Moreover, rather than open trucks, covered trucks or vans should be used to ensure the hygiene of the products.
Right now, the cattle markets are running all around Bangladesh. Though the government has provided clear COVID-19 safety guidelines at these cattle markets, none is following those. The DNCC mayor has pulled a strong stunt by saying that if these rules are not followed at any cattle market, he will shut down that market. But in reality, he will do nothing. Moreover, at the current setting of the cattle markets, it is almost impossible to maintain COVID-19 safety guidelines at any cattle markets. Hence, it is obvious that, many will be infected from the COVID-19 from these cattle markets. We should have planned earlier to maintain the COVID-19 safety protocols and should have designed the markets in accord. We will have to take a big blow for this mistake in recent future.
Millions of people have gone to their ancestral homes for Eid-ul-Adha. As the current COVID-19 is spread more at the rural areas, these people will bring COVID-19 along with them to cities like Dhaka. As a 14-day lockdown is to be enforced after Eid, we must ensure that, the offices of these people remain properly closed and these people cannot enter the cities immediately after Eid by any means. If the government and relevant authorities do not ensure that, then we will never be able to avoid the upcoming COVID-19 calamity.
We must realize that, COVID-19 is not going to disappear soon from this world. Hence, there is no option but to wear masks, sanitize our hands and maintain physical distance. Mass campaign and law enforce is highly required to ensure these protocols to be followed properly. The local leaders, authorities and everyone with public relation ability should participate in this drive rigorously.
We will not be able to enforce lockdown or keep institutions like schools and colleges closed for long. The global people including that of Bangladesh have to learn to live with COVID-19. We have to ensure our own safety with utmost priority. The government or none else can ensure that. Ignorance and negligent behavior is not going to help us much now. We hope, our people realize this soon and act in accord. If only that happens, we will be able to avoid any future disaster.
The writer is chief editor at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and Chief Patron, Bangabandhu Shishu Kishore Mela