A year on: Pandemic-hit Bangladesh still resilient

Abdullah Al Mamun

If asked how was 2020 , most would frown, as the year was overcast with the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Bangladesh too is an awful victim, and has faced unprecedented sufferings since March 8 last year, when first hit by the virus. But with the proper initiatives taken, the country has overcome the turmoil many of the developed countries are struggling to drive out.

Three months after Wuhan, the city in China where it was first identified, Corona virus came to Bangladesh with many uncertainties. Bangladesh had been on the way to development, like never before and the pandemic was about to grasp all the possibilities.

The miseries Bangladesh faced since the beginning was unforeseeable. All the economic actions came to a halt. Lack of mobility, food and necessary equipment made us look like a victim of war. Shops, offices, industries, transport – all came to a standstill. Due to a strictly imposed lockdown, people had to stay inside thinking of what to do the next day.

The health division had not gone through this conundrum before. Hospitals were overcrowded with patients and there was a lack of personal protective gear, testing facilities, oxygen cylinders.

The way of life has taken a new turn. People started getting acquainted with the new normal life with faces covered in masks, using hand sanitizers on a frequent basis and maintaining social distancing.

Bangladesh has proved all the calculations and statistics wrong with the measures and initiatives taken by the government. Since the identification of the virus, many Covid dedicated hospitals and isolation centers have been set up. The rate of affected cases has reduced to a safe level, in comparison to the ones who are supposed to be developed and belong to the first world.

According to Worldometers, a statistics aggregating website, Bangladesh has the 34th highest number of cases in the world with 550,330 cases among 160 million people while 8462 have died till now. The countries with larger populations but fewer cases than BD are Nigeria (158,506 cases with population about 210 million) and China (89,994 cases with population about 1.4 billion).

Bangladesh has been worth mentioning in the comparison of death per million as it ranks the 81st lowest with 51 deaths, having a better number than many more developed countries like Japan (ranks 91 with 65 deaths) and Norway (106th with 116 deaths), while the global rate is 334 deaths per million.

This country has become one of the firsts to start Covid-19 inoculation. It has started vaccinating from 7 February nationwide. Till now, over 3.8 million people have been vaccinated while the number of registered are 5.05 million.

This country saw unprecedented crisis in health, economic and food sectors. But it has come back with expectations on the economic front with remittance inflow remaining robust and the farmers keeping the food chain steady throughout last year.

Its economic growth was 3.8 percent, the third-highest in the world and the highest in Asia in 2020, according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

As the situation was getting better, lockdown began to lift. Economic activities have returned to the pre-pandemic stage, health emergencies have been lowered. The long suffering educational sector has started seeing light with the government set to reopen educational institutions at the end of this month.

The performance of Bangladesh is recognized in Bloomberg’s Covid-19 resilience ranking, where it ranked 24th out of 53 economies worth over 200 billion. 

Health Minister Zahid Maleque said Bangladesh is successfully managing the situation despite some loopholes, indicating the vaccination programme.

"We are not manufacturers of Covid vaccines, so we have to rely on others. Since the government alone cannot do everything, private entities should be engaged. People have to come forward to help the government eradicate Covid from the country.”, he added.