• Friday, Sep 25, 2020
  • Last Update : 08:21 pm

OP-ED: Bangladesh after the pandemic

  • Published at 09:32 pm August 9th, 2020
rmg workers walking mask
REUTERS

What will our country look like once the coronavirus becomes a thing of the past?

It has now been more than four months since the coronavirus pandemic started in Wuhan, China. It’s not stopped but some countries are beginning to see a decline in new infections. 

Though the curve is yet to flatten in Bangladesh, the government is slowly easing lockdown restrictions. The government is trying to strike a balance between protecting lives and preserving jobs. 

Small shops and restaurants along with all the government and private sectors are reopening. Domestic flights and train services are increasing their frequency after the instructions of wearing masks and maintaining social distance came out.

But the students are not returning to class as schools and colleges remain closed. Probably this situation will end soon but I don’t think it will be a situation that is easy to overcome. 

Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. It’s going to be a painful and bumpy ride. It feels like an experiment unfolding in real time. 

This is a disease of globalization as it spreads through the channels that we have created and this is a disease that does not respect nationality, class, or ethncity. Moving back to the old ways of operating will cause cataclysmic consequences for the economy and all social classes within it. 

The crisis we are undergoing is profound in nature and unlike any crisis we have faced before. 

Currently, Bangladesh’s economy is facing a significant recession. We are likely to see a recession that is not only deep in nature but also lengthy. This could be a transformative event concerning industrial capitalism. 

There will be dramatic changes in people’s behaviour. An estimated half of the population of the world has been in lockdown. In this situation, the question is, what damage will cause? 

Behavior and Health Research Unit experts say that about 40% of our behavior in any day is routine or habitual so it occurs at around the same time and the same place. And it’s also estimated that a person acquires a new habit or routine in about six weeks. 

So, there is a high possibility that some of the behaviors we are now engaged in will stick with us. People have managed to change their behavior in the context of this immediate threat. 

As we know, handwashing and proper cleaning of the home have gone up significantly. We have learned to maintain distance from people on the street. We don’t know how long it will take for us to not be jumpy every time somebody is coming around the corner, and whether we will ever go back to shaking hands with people. 

Big cities like Dhaka and Chittagong will get less crowded and will slow down their pace. Rapid migration from rural to urban areas, like we have seen in Bangladesh, cannot continue at the same speed. 

There will be less eating out but more home deliveries. Salons and parlors will be in demand only if good practices of social distancing are properly maintained. 

The way we work in cities will also change. Working from home will be an option, supported by video conferencing, mainly in the private sectors. 

Pandemics and climate page are not unconnected. Our profligate devastation of the environment around us has numerous profound effects on the relationships between humans and animal species. 

But we also have a few opportunities in the current crisis. One of the opportunities is to recalibrate to prepare for climate change. 

Due to the rush of taking the economy back to a stable point, we might want to forget about climate change and I think it’s vital that we don’t.  

One of the responses to the economic crisis unleashed by Covid-19 has been a huge policy of disinvestment in third-world countries like Bangladesh and that has caused enormous poverty. We may see hunger and possibly mass starvation as a consequence of all this. 

Millions have either lost their income or have experienced significant reduction in how much they earn. This is crisis is forcing us to rethink everything. 

If out of that comes a recognition that we have got to respond and repair for climate change, then we may visualize a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

Mohammed Asaf-Ud-Doulah is a student and an Open-Troop Member, Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS).

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