Slums might be coronavirus breading ground

Though the number of coronavirus cases is increasing day by day in the country, it is surprising enough that the number of corona-infected among slum dwellers or low-income people, who do not follow the hygiene rules, is much less.

While the exact answer to this question cannot be found, experts say if special attention is not paid to them then the city’s slums would become the breeding grounds for Covid-19.

When asked, Former Vice Chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and Virologist Professor Nazrul Islam told The Bangladesh Post, "I was also surprised by the matter. The slum dwellers and low income people of our country are not health conscious. They live in unhealthy environments. There are various limitations. So the virus was supposed to spread widely in these cases. But it did not happen. If the virus spreads widely in the slums, it would be a terrible situation. I found it wonderful too. It is really difficult to say exactly why this is happening.”

Experts said that although the government has taken various steps to prevent coronavirus infection, but there is no proper focus on slums. Physical and social distance is not being ensured as there are many people huddled in slum houses. They share daily necessities with each other. There is also a widespread lack of awareness among them. So their risk is much higher. The government should pay special attention to them. Otherwise the situation will take a terrible turn.

There is a rickshaw garage in the Mddya Paikpara area of Mirpur-1 where hundreds of rickshaw pullers live in a very small space. One of them, Korban Ali, was saying that “if he would not drive a rickshaw for one day, he would not be able to eat on that day. Moreover, if I rent a room outside, I have to spend half of my monthly income. So I am forced to stay like this.”

He said with conviction “We are poor people. Allah has mercy on us. Allah will save us. We will not be infected with the corona virus, Insa Allah.”

On April 8, police locked down a slum at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar in the capital after finding a patient with coronavirus. There are about 300 to 350 families in the slum. No other slum lockdown has been reported since then, but medical experts are not keeping them out of risk.

Additional Director General (Administration) of the Department of Health Prof. Nasima Sultana told The Bangladesh Post that “It is very simple that they will be affected at low rate. Because of the people who came back from Italy or any other country will not go to the slums. The virus has spread in our country through expatriates. The rate of infection among expatriates is very low as they do not come in contact with them. Now that there is a social infection, if someone goes to the market or any other public gathering, then they are likely to be infected with the virus.”

However, Professor Saif Ullah Munshi, head of Virology department of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) was reluctant to accept this statement. He told The Bangladesh Post that “It has nothing to do with going back to Italy or other countries. Many of the infected people are going to the markets, coughing and sneezing. Coronavirus germs are spreading from there too. Many may be dying of the corona virus, but we don't know”.

“Actually we are not thinking about them. Everyone thinks for the rich people, VIPs. We also think how to provide special medical care to them. But we don't think of the poor people. Many of the slum dwellers don’t know what is the Covit-19? Many of them do not know where and how to test. As a result, if someone dies with shortness of breath or coronavirus symptoms, they think it may be a normal death. If we do not pay attention to this population, the risk of coronavirus infection in the country will increase a lot. Since slum dwellers or low-income people live together, if there is an infection, it will spread very quickly. Due to poverty, it is not possible for them to follow the hygiene rules properly,” he added.