Covid-19 is here in a serious way, and unless we all do everything we can to combat its spread, the devastation will be unthinkable
It had to happen, sooner or later. But when it does, you are never prepared.
At 4:50am on Sunday morning, Covid-19 finally struck at the very heart of the Dhaka Tribune family.
Our colleague Md Mamun Hossain, who had worked as a systems support assistant in the Dhaka Tribune IT department for the past four and a half years, succumbed to Covid, barely three hours after being hospitalized.
Mamun leaves behind his young son, wife, and mother, and his shocking death brings home just how arbitrary and cruel this disease is.
There is simply no saying who will be taken seriously ill and who will be spared.
Mamun was just 25 years old.
Nor does Covid-19 provide advance notice of when it will turn on you.
Even though he had tested positive, as late as Friday night there was no indication that Mamun's illness would be a serious, let alone fatal one.
He only started experiencing difficulty with his breathing and low oxygen levels on Saturday, which was when he began his search for hospital admission and medical attention.
He entered hospital at 1am on Sunday with his oxygen level at 43%, and within three and a half hours he had breathed his last.
While Mamun's family and his Dhaka Tribune family struggle to make sense of and come to terms with this shocking tragedy, it seems to me that what has been made brutally clear to us is how serious this pandemic is.
Last month was by far the deadliest month of the pandemic in Bangladesh, the death toll of 6,182 alone being more than in the three months previous combined, which were in turn more than in the eight months previous to that.
In short, we are currently smack in the middle of the most dangerous times we have seen since the pandemic hit our shores in March 2020.
But it seems to me that this time last year we were taking the pandemic more seriously than we are now, even though the danger today is far greater.
Another way to look at it is that it took 188 days for Bangladesh to cross 5,000 Covid deaths and 205 more days to reach 10,000 deaths.
However, we progressed to 15,000 deaths just 80 days later, and it took just 24 more days for the death toll to cross 20,000.
This is not a drill, ladies and gentlemen. This is it. If there was ever any doubt, that doubt has long been dispelled: Covid-19 is here in a serious way and unless we all do everything we can to combat its spread, the devastation will be unthinkable.
We need to double down on masking, hand-washing, and avoiding crowds. Those who can stay home, should stay home. We must minimize our interactions; when we must interact with one another, we must take all possible precautions.
Of course it is not possible to live completely safe lives. People need to work. People need to eat. Social distancing in a country like Bangladesh is almost impossible. The same goes for the full isolation of those who test positive.
But we must do what we can.
So far, I think we have not done as badly as people may think. Given all the countervailing economic and social pressures, and our paucity of medical resources, I think we have dealt with the pandemic tolerably well. We don't see people willfully refusing vaccines and flouting regulations like you do in many other countries.
If people do flout regulations, it is largely for economic reasons. We could have done better, but by and large Bangladeshis have responded to the pandemic as well as could have been hoped, in my estimation.
But the larger point is that this is no time for complacency. While our death toll as a fraction of the total population is still blessedly low compared to many other countries, the coming month is crucial. We cannot afford to let our guard down.
The month of August will determine the course of the pandemic in Bangladesh. We can't say we haven't been warned.
Zafar Sobhan is Editor, Dhaka Tribune