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The war against Covid-19

  • Published at 09:00 pm March 9th, 2020
Corona virus covid 19 china containment
How can Bangladesh prepare? REUTERS

Containment remains possible if Bangladesh adopts appropriate measures

We have seen it in the movies. We are now seeing it play out in real life. The world is at war against a virus. The Covid-19 outbreak now stretches across every continent barring Antarctica.

Disease pandemics falls in the realm of non-traditional security challenges. Pandemics can pose a grave threat to international peace and security. 

The Covid-19 outbreak is testing the limits of healthcare systems in some of the largest economies in the world, including in China and Italy. 

There is alarm at the prospect of the disease spreading in the developing world, with Iran already seeing widespread community transmission. Bangladesh’s first reported cases of the virus is in relation to expatriates returning from Italy.

Covid-19 requires a strong response from national and international institutions. It requires the mobilization of industrial resources just as a country’s war machine would be mobilized.

It is interesting to note that the Japanese electronics company Sharp will be converting one of its LCD TV factories into a plant for producing facemasks. 

Sharp reportedly plans to produce 150,000 facemasks per day and projects production of 500,000 facemasks per day by the end of March.

Hand sanitizers will be in high demand during the period of the outbreak. Physicians and nurses will require hazmat suits to treat patients. Hospitals will need more medical equipment.

There is global concern over the supply of testing kits. Some countries are being ingenious in expanding testing capacity. 

South Korea has established drive through testing centers that have catered to thousands of people. The Korean model is being replicated in Britain.

If a country were to face widespread community transmission, it would have to set up makeshift hospitals and quarantine centers. 

The Chinese army has been credited for building such facilities in the PRC during the outbreak, including a hospital built in 10 days in Wuhan.

The extensive lockdown imposed by China in Hubei province has been considered a model for other hotspots. But whether more open societies can replicate the authoritarian model of the PRC is still a question. 

The United Nations OHCHR has stressed the need to place human rights “front and center” while implementing preventive measures, particularly among the most vulnerable sections of society.

Italy has imposed a lockdown in the Lombardy and Veneto regions, which are home to the economic hubs of Milan and Venice and crucial to the Italian economy. The World Health Organization has noted the “genuine sacrifices” made in Italy. 

The failure to impose early quarantine measures in Iran, particularly in Qom, has been seen as one of the causes behind community transmission.

In the United States, Covid-19 has led to a state of emergency in many states, including in Washington, California, and New York. 

The densely populated city-state of Singapore has been successful in ensuring recoveries outpace the rate of infection and in preventing deaths. The government of Bangladesh must look at best practices as it moves forward. 

It should mobilize industrial resources, particularly in the private sector, to cope with the demand for facemasks, hand sanitizers, test kits, hazmat suits, medical equipment, and hospital and quarantine capacity. It must ensure the nation’s food security during this critical period.

Transparency, international cooperation, and an informed public are the needs of the hour. There has been much controversy over the fate of the late Dr Li Wenliang, who detected the virus in December 2019 and was shunned by provincial authorities in Hubei. Dr Wenliang later became ill with the virus and succumbed to the disease. 

In comparison, China was more successful in containing the H5N1 avian flu after its discovery in 1997. At the time, China swiftly killed 1.5 million chickens to stave off the flu. 

In the case of Covid-19, China has struggled to detect and contain the source in its lucrative wildlife trade. The world needs leadership during this unprecedented time. We must fight off Covid-19.

Umran Chowdhury works in the legal field.

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