Experts from various fields suggest not going ahead with nationwide lockdown as it affects economy and livelihood
Drawing attention to the poor management of the lockdown last year, health experts, business leaders, economists and activists involved in dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic say the lockdown should be implemented by identifying high-risk areas instead of going for long-term nationwide lockdowns.
They made suggestions to ward off infections while keeping the economy afloat and at the same time balancing life and the livelihoods of people.
Speakers made with the observations at a virtual dialogue on the theme, "How will we tackle the second wave of the pandemic?" organized by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) on Monday.
They recommended effective coordination between governing bodies and healthcare services, creating awareness, engaging the masses with the help of local administration, and other stakeholders at all grassroots levels. They stressed the need to strictly maintain lockdown in such areas to control community transmissions.
They also recommended active field-level and community hospitals to locally produce vaccines, and import more vaccines and ensure vaccination for all, by reducing medical costs and providing government subsidies.
The recommendations also included financial aid for suffering small business entrepreneurs, who should be able to keep their shops open to keep the economy afloat.
Dr Mohammad Mushtuq Husain, advisor at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), suggested reducing the level of infection by providing first aid treatment to those infected and also by following the blanket approach, targeted approach, risk-based approach, and tailored approaches instead of countrywide lockdown.
Dr Mushtaque Raza Chowdhury, convener, Bangladesh Health Watch (BSW), said currently the rate of infection was the highest in Dhaka. Curfew should be imposed in places like Dhaka where the rate of infection is high to curb the virus transmissions, instead of countrywide lockdown. Referring to the unequal distribution of vaccines, the academic and researcher said rich people were currently getting vaccinated but marginal people should be brought under vaccination as well.
Dr ASM Alamgir, principal scientific officer at IEDCR, said with low infection rates in December and January, the government should have planned to bring high-risk areas and district towns under lockdown. But the government went ahead with a nationwide lockdown instead due to the rising cases.
Dr AM Shamim, managing director of Labaid,stated that as the demand for oxygen had increased by four times, it was necessary to reduce the supply of oxygen to non-hospitals and increase it in hospitals. The country must allow the production and import of vaccines.
Responding to a query about opening garment factories, Faruque Hassan, president-elect, BGMEA, said in order for workers to survive in the pursuit of life and livelihood, and for the economy to survive in the international market, the country's economically viable RMG sector had to be kept open.
Moreover, our garments and workplace is virus-free and the rate of infection is very low following strict hygiene rules, he said.
Helal Uddin, president, National Association of Shop Owners in Bangladesh, argued that there was no need for a lockdown where doctors were on the frontline to ensure safety. However, the economy revolved around various festivals, so if the lockdown continued for 21 consecutive days, all shop owners would become destitutes.
He urged the government to keep shops open during the month of Ramadan and provide financial aid for business people who had lost everything due to the pandemic.
Fahmida Khatun, executive director of CPD, moderated the dialogue.