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ED: Dropping the ball on many fronts

  • Published at 09:49 pm July 2nd, 2020
Photo: Dhaka Tribune

Going forward, our policies must be based on the words of health experts and epidemiologists, not bureaucrats and businesspeople

It has been nearly four months since the first coronavirus cases were detected in Bangladesh, and yet as a country, we are still greatly struggling with counteracting infection rates and employing effective policies.

The lives vs livelihoods debate has been an integral part of the discourse surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic for a while now. However, it is time to rethink whether or not it is a good idea to base policy measures around this debate.

Although the complete lockdown was lifted with the intent of benefiting the economy in some manner, economic activity is still at a meagre 40% to 50% and there has been little increase in the middle class’ spending on non-essentials.

Fear of community transmission trumps all, and lifting the lockdown has only exacerbated infection rates without improving the economy, as was expected.

Furthermore, our testing continues to fall gravely short of what it must be to combat rising numbers. Contact-tracing and following up on infected people’s quarantine measures are nearly nonexistent.

While lockdowns were said to not be poor-friendly, lifting the lockdown has not helped either -- workers continue to struggle with employment and unpaid wages. Not only that, but testing for coronavirus has also been priced at Tk200, which only discriminates against the lower-income classes further.

It has come to stand, at this point in time, that we are not doing enough of either prevention or cure, and this must change if we are to see any improvement.

As Dr Ashikur Rahman pointed out in a recent conversation with Dhaka Tribune: “From the beginning of the Covid-19 outbreak, we framed the problem in a wrong way. We made a lot of policy mistakes and did not have the clarity to deal with the problem.”

Going forward, our policies must be based on the words of health experts and epidemiologists, not bureaucrats and businesspeople. Prevention, containment, and data-collection must be prioritized. We must improve public health conditions, and it will eventually turn out to be for the betterment of the economy.

Right now, there are several precedents of what works and what does not from numerous countries around the world. It is time we take a look around and decide what is best for our people.

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