Expert Speak Raisina Debates
Published on Jun 01, 2020
Bangladesh’s battle against COVID19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 outbreak has stopped the normal livelihood of people almost everywhere. The first case of coronavirus infection was found in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Later it dramatically spread worldwide. As of today, around 3,72,099 people have died and more than six million people have tested positive worldwide.

In Bangladesh, the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) confirmed the first coronavirus infection on March 8, 2020 and the first death occurred on 18th of the same month. Though only a few cases were found in the beginning, the number of infected patients started to increase rapidly from April following which, community transmission- the 4th stage of the pandemic, began in the country.

Meanwhile, the government of Bangladesh has taken different initiatives to control the spread of COVID-19. Looking at how the situation unfolded, the authority later extended the lockdown frequently to ensure social distancing. The government restricted public transports and deployed law and order agencies to control public movement on the streets. Besides, testing and isolating the COVID-19 patients is one of the significant solutions to control the outbreak, the authority expanded the number of testing labs as well as increased the number of daily tests.

Though several measures have been taken, social distancing has become next to impossible due to population density, unawareness among people, and social stigma in Bangladesh. It is found that Dhaka division has become the hotspot of infection which holds over 81 percent of the COVID-19 patients of the country. Experts recommend that authorities should give special focus on Dhaka considering the population density and the highest infection rate. Besides, the unwillingness of abroad returnees to stay in quarantine has also led to transmit coronavirus rapidly. The initial spike in the number of cases and deaths have been due to coming in contact with the returnees.. Another reason that has contributed to the increase in the spread is because of religious and funeral gatherings which occurred without maintaining social distancing in different parts of the country amid the lockdown situation. Furthermore, the movement of thousands of people from Dhaka city to their homes to celebrate Eid with their families defying the public transport ban put the lives of people in danger.

However, social stigma played a major role in Bangladesh to help coronavirus enter community transmission stage. The COVID-19 breakout led to different incidents of beating, hatred and threatening across the country as a result of which people hesitated to disclose their medical symptoms. This ultimately led to a faster transmission of this virus silently.

Amidst devastating outbreak, the government had no other option but to continue lockdown. The long period of lockdown, impacted the agricultural sector, the business and trade sectors, manufacturing and utility sectors, information and communication sectors, hotels, transports and tourism sectors and so on severely. Meanwhile, one million garments workers have lost their jobs due to this global crisis. The remittance flow also projected to decline because of the fall in the wages and unemployment of the migrant workers.

Due to the on-going crisis, different social problems including unemployment, poverty, discrimination, food insecurity have been increasing significantly. Recently, BRAC, a non-governmental organization of Bangladesh, conducted a survey on 2675 respondents in all 64 districts. The findings showed that extreme poverty has risen by 60 percent while 14 percent of people do not have food at home.

It is important to note that the government of Bangladesh has taken several important measures to combat these social problems. As a part of financial support, the government announced that loan payers need not pay until June 30, and credit card users will be waived from their fees/ interests against late payment of their due bills until May 30. Due to a restriction in movement as well as closure of major banks during the lockdown, the government has increased the limit of monthly transaction on mobile financial services. For the agriculture sector, the government instructed banks to provide loan at only 4 percent interest rate. Besides payment period for import of raw materials, agricultural implements and chemical fertilizers have also been extended. Most importantly, for the agriculture sector, a refinance scheme of BDT50 billion has been declared with an interest of only 4 percent at the customer end. To help other different industrial sectors, the government has declared stimulus packages of BDT667.5 billion especially for those industries who are badly impacted by COVID-19. A BDT30 billion of the refinancing scheme has been declared for the low-income professionals, farmers and micro businessmen where the customer will be able to pay the loan flexibly including a grace period of one to two years.

Besides, the government shows zero tolerance to any kind of irregularities during relief distribution. Already 42 public representatives have been suspended for different allegations against them. Moreover, although the government cancelled the leave of doctors and law enforcing agencies during the outbreak, some of them expressed an inability to serve the people and remained absent from their work. In consequence, the administrations suspended them for negligence to work.

It is evident that the government is giving effort to ensure accountable and transparent administration to minimize the massive spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic. However, to fight COVID-19 more awareness is also required among the citizen.

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Lamia Islam

Lamia Islam

Lamia Islam is currently working as Assistant Professor for the Department of Political Science at Jagannath University Dhaka Bangladesh.Besides she is involved in research at ...

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