• Friday, May 14, 2021
  • Last Update : 06:37 am

To open, or not to open, that is the question

  • Published at 05:08 pm April 21st, 2020
When is the right time to turn the economy back on?

There are a few places still full of people going about their everyday lives without maintaining necessary precautions and risking further community transmission of Covid-19

An eerie silence now hangs over Bangladesh and its major cities. In most of the places, you will see empty streets with one or two rickshaws or cars making sporadic appearances and a few passers-by heading off to their intended destinations – at least, that is the case only after the sun is perched at its highest peak.

Until then, when the morning light is still new, there are a number of places that are still full of people, going about their everyday lives without maintaining the necessary distance or precautions and risking further community transmission of the dangerous Covid-19 disease. The reason for that, they say, is for the sake of the continuation of economic activity and livelihood.

Most of the places in those early morning gatherings tend to be kitchen markets, like the ones in Kawran

 Bazar and Jatrabari – places that are absolutely necessary for ensuring the integrity of our daily lives. But the condition of those places, the disregard for safety of the individuals partaking in the activities there, paint a cautionary picture of the dangers that lurk behind the idea of resuming all industrial and economic activity before everyone is truly ready. Locations such as those are hotbeds for contracting Covid-19, where a single individual may infect dozens or even hundreds of others.Factories, mills and offices can become hotbeds too.

In such scenarios, the negative impact on the economy would be much greater than limiting activity now. While it is true that almost all sectors are seeing a massive decrease in production and sale, if not at a complete stop, there is still light at the end of the tunnel. Forecasts from major organizations such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF)are hopeful of a quick recovery and growth of Bangladesh’s commerce – IF the crisis is quickly managed.

So far, the situation is still manageable. But if a lot of people are put into close contact with each other in small spaces such as buildings or public transport, the situation will be, like a wild stallion, almost untamable.

Proper social distancing and restrictions mitigate the mass transmission of the virus. Currently, even if a worker in a steel manufacturing plant is infected, the rest of the employees working at the plant are not at risk of contracting the disease from the infected person. However, if the plant is open and is operating at full pace, the infected person can further infect all the people that come into contact – creating a domino effect of transmission and engulfing almost the entire workforce.As a result, the entire organization will be crippled by the need to replace a significant number of its employees, from where a comeback might not be possible.

There is no denying the current need for economic and financial activity to minimize the effect of the impending recession. Several industries are suffering massive losses and are looking at more losses to come in the future. All the steel plants in Bangladesh are now closed, daily cement sales have dropped by about 80%, and millions of people are at risk of unemployment.But does that justify putting peoples’ health and safety at risk now?

So, this is the risk that all the businesses and organizations of Bangladesh face today –trying to move forward with economic activity today and risk further contamination or stay put, stay safe for now for a better and more stable economic recovery in the future.

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