Coronavirus menace in South Asia

Bangladesh should enforce tough lockdown

Published : 05 May 2021 08:33 PM | Updated : 05 May 2021 11:59 PM

The devastating coronavirus probably has made its worst strike in our country. It is still under control, but what is happening in the next door i.e., India? Tragic scene is observed in all over the country. Coronavirus patients have been residing on roads. The bodies are being found on roads in many areas of India. 

Hospitals in many areas are overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.  Scarcity of oxygen has put the patient’s life at jeopardy. The government is really perplexed. The people are at bay. A country with having a population of 130 crores is infected with a new corona variant which is spreading speedily. India reported 33 lakhs infections and over 35000 deaths in 10 days. The supply of vaccine is inadequate comparing to the demand. The vaccines produced by Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech are less than the requirements for vaccination. 

 Mass vaccination is the main alternative to contain surge of coronavirus patients and deaths. But it is uncertain whether India could go for mass vaccination due to shortage of vaccines. In such a situation India had imposed ban to export vaccines to outside countries to meet its domestic demands. So Serum Institute could not supply vaccines as per agreement with Bangladeshi pharmaceutical company Beximco. 

Bangladesh should stand in solidarity 

with India at this critical moment and 

provide support in every possible way

It’s also uncertain when Bangladesh will get vaccines although there is tremendous demand of vaccines. The government of Bangladesh is looking for alternative sources to get the vaccines. The government has issued emergency use approval for China’s Sinopharm and Russia’s Sputnik V. It also gave approval of producing the said two vaccines in Bangladesh.        

But the main concern at this moment is to prevent entering of Indian variants to Bangladesh. The presence of UK, African and triply muted coronavirus have been worsening the situation. The triply muted coronavirus in India is 300 times stronger than the previous virus. The head of World Health Organization (WHO) Hans Kluge has said, `It is very important to realize that the situation in India can happen anywhere.’ 

Against this backdrop there are reasons to be worried as the Bangladeshis who went to India for treatment and other purposes started coming to Bangladesh getting permission from Bangladesh High Commission of Delhi and Kolkata. In the last few days some people returned back from India via Benapole border.  Some of them were infected with coronavirus. Police had to chase patients who were fleeing Jeshore sadar hospital avoiding eyes of the hospital authorities and arrested and compelled them to go for quarantine. 

Bangladesh needs to continue the ongoing shutdown as well as beef up vigilance on the borders to stop possible infiltration and movement of persons involved in informal trading. People are rushing in the shopping malls and markets at the advent of Eid. Directorate of Health has earlier disclosed health guidelines to follow it by the people during lockdown and movement in the roads. Are many people following the government’s directives? The rush in the markets and the presence of so many people without masks are worrying us. 

The transport movement has also increased substantially on the roads despite enforcement of lockdown until May 5. Transport workers are demonstrating on the roads to open movement of transports. Government is also thinking to resume mass transports before Eid. Just think what will happen if the Indian variants strike in Bangladesh? Besides, lack of personal protective measures, lack of vaccine coverage, failure to stop mass gathering can be the cause of contagious virus. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has embarked on a plan to provide cash support of Tk. 2500 to 36.5 lakh low income families engaged in different occupations. She urged all to strictly follow health guidelines regardless whether they have taken vaccine or not. From the very beginning of emergence of Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 she repeatedly has been giving wakeup call to be cautious about the devastation of the coronavirus. 

Prime Minister is relentlessly working and trying sincerely to get vaccines from different countries of the world. Her only concern is to save our people? Money is not the factor. “We are bringing more vaccines; no matter how much money is required, we will bring more vaccines”, Hasina said reaffirming that government will procure vaccines at any cost to protect people from Covid-19.  

Despite constraints Bangladesh has offered to dispatch, on emergency basis, medicines and medical equipment in view of the rapidly deteriorating coronavirus situation in India. It’s a good gesture. Bangladesh should stand in solidarity with our close door neighbor India at this critical moment and provide support in every possible way to save lives of the people. India is our trusted friend. They have imposed ban on export of vaccines considering grave worsening situation in that country.

Dr S A Malek is former political adviser to the Prime Minister and Member of Parliament, general secretary of Bangabandhu Parishad and columnist