AHM Zehadul Karim
While everyone globally is fighting the same coronavirus nearly almost a year, many Asian countries including Vietnam and Bangladesh are performing quite well as compared to many European countries including the North. Bloomberg’s recent Covid-19 resilience ranking scores of November 2020 identified 53 economies of the world on their excellent success in containing the virus with the least amount of social and economic disruption within the country. Among the 20 best performers, Bangladesh has been successful in having its 20th position which is not bad in a sense as many people globally at the initial stage suspected that Bangladesh would have a mysterious situation in regard to facing the coronavirus because of its multifarious problems including the lower status of clinical support for its people.
Bloomberg calculates their data on the basis of 10 indicators which are aggregated through a scale of ‘maximum to minimum’ method, using it to convert the metrics explained in various scales, while maintaining the relative distance between the values. Although this coronavirus ranking strategy making a situational assessment has just started recently, it is however, updated every month to observe and follow-up the changing situation. In this context, I would say that Bangladesh perhaps has to be ranked a little better if the December counting is considered as in the last fortnight while the global situation was deteriorating drastically with the emergence of a new virus, but admirably in the case of Bangladesh, it seems that the infection rate in late December is comparatively lower.
While having the list of the countries securing resilience ranking score regarding COVID-19 pandemic, it is found that Bangladesh performed excellent among the South Asian and South East Asian countries which placed them in a better position as compared to many others. In regard to the GDP growth, Bangladesh had attained the highest position among all countries of this region. Based on the capacity of local health care system, impact on the virus related restrictions on the economy and freedom of movement, Bangladesh has been placed in an admirable position considering 34 cases per 100,000 with a mortality rate of 1.6% and a test positive rate 10.2%. It however, defectively seems clear to us that had Bangladesh not violated the quarantine rules at the very beginning when many Bangladeshi expatriates from foreign countries were arriving in the country, our position as an affected country would have been much better.
At this moment, among 20 countries which are included in the Bloomberg’s ranking as good performers, New Zealand is topping the list being followed by Taiwan, Australia, Norway and Singapore who are at the top five rounds out countries having shown their excellent performances in taking all protections very carefully. Chronologically, the remaining countries in the list are Finland, Japan, South Korea, China, Denmark, Canada, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Thailand, Ireland, UAE, Israel, Russia, the Netherlands and Bangladesh. While all European countries including the United Kingdom and the United States are still facing the upheaval of the second wave of coronavirus, Bangladesh to that context, luckily had slightest improvement of the situation since middle of December until now as daily count for us in these few days are lowering a little as evidentially on December 26, the number of infection came down to 837, on 2nd January this year, it has come down to 684, being the lowest in eight months which consistently keeps an average of around 1000 persons a day, for the last fortnight of December and early January. Thus it informs us that Bloomberg’s calculation for us might have been little different had that situational improvement in caseloads were taken into consideration. Optimistically, we are quite certain that this number could have been reduced further if our mass people had remained more concerned about the total situation. Many of us are still careless who never wear mask, nor do we maintain proper social distance avoiding mass gathering. We find many uneducated and even some educated persons who are still coughing on the faces in open places and carelessly spitting on the streets which are a clear violation of the pandemic rules.
As indicated, in terms of GDP growth, Bangladesh remains on the top of many countries. But we have the feeling that being consistent with the GDP growth, our social and health indicators also have to be kept in proper acceptability; economic distance between classes are to be reduced. Everyone should have equal access to the state mechanisms; bureaucratization of state organs must be stopped immediately which was fully disliked by our Father of the Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. One former Vice Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Prof. Nazrul Islam reminded us that if we maintain social etiquette and careful health rules, we would continue improving further. Professor ABM Abdullah, the former Dean of Medicine from this medical university aptly mentioned that such improvement was only possible because of the reason that our Prime Minister courageously and thoughtfully had decided to cancel the holidays in right time which in fact, benefitted the poor in boosting up the economy. I also have the same understanding that our Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina strategically had opened the industries, markets slowly keeping pace with the situation of the country and thus providing economic incentive in the form of emergency packages and saving the industrial plants to rejuvenate the export sector. But unfortunately, a few industries however, often ignored her voice not properly abiding by the requests as she had meant for them; in fact, with this, the Prime Minister also had the intention to save the workers as well. She however, denied such assistance for the bank defaulters and corrupted industrialists from availing such privileges although a few corrupt politicians indirectly had in mind to support these groups of people for their own interest. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina subsequently also declared such incentive packages for the petty farmers in the villages so that the peasants with low income in rural areas can also avail such opportunities. There is no denying of the fact that our Prime Minister at the very beginning was requiring an honest support from the Health Ministry as a few issues at that time was misleading to make the situation vulnerable which she had observed very silently. Now our Health Minister, Mr. Zahid Maleque justifiably claims that Prime Minister’s intelligence made all situations regarding COVID-19 to make it faceable intelligently and he appreciatively mentions her role and capability in dealing with the pandemic. The ministerial sources now confirm us that AstraZeneca vaccination for ten crores of Bangladeshis is expected to be available in the country either in late January or in early February this year which is certainly a positive waiting for all of us. But we have been reminded repeatedly that even after having the vaccination doze, we still have to continue following the pandemic rules in regard to our health protection. Finally, I would say that those who often are criticizing Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, please do not do it just for the sake of opposition; please be little constructive to praise her for the sake of the nation, and thus bless her for the future.
Prof Dr. A.H.M. Zehadul Karim is a former Vice Chancellor of a public university in Bangladesh, now teaches at Jagannath University