Should Bangladesh impose a hard curfew-style lockdown immediately after Eid?
Keeping the world economic activities with possible adoption of safety procedures into concern, discussants in an online conference warned that without taking coordinated proper initiatives including hard lockdown, the country would lose its place in the global economic acceptance.
In Tribune Talks: Last Window to Tame the Beast, organized by Dhaka Tribune on Tuesday night, speakers came up with the observations. Dhaka Tribune Editor Zafar Sobhan moderated the discussion.
They, however, quoting the recent experiences said without ensuring assistance in a proper way, the must needed approach would be a futile one.
The discussants also criticized the concerned authorities for failing to make the people aware of and gain support from the mass people to work together.
They also emphasized on adopting effective methods of making people aware and get the necessary support from them to tackle the situation that the country still lacks after two months of general holiday.
Dr Ashikur Rahman, a senior economist at the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh (PRI) said as two months have passed since the lockdown [a mix of lockdown and herd immunity] was imposed, the induced economic loss was roughly 3% to 4% of the country’s GDP, without receiving any substantial health benefits.
He expressed fear that when the rest of the world comes out of the pandemic situation, and Bangladesh remains a Covid-19 hotspot, it will interrupt the country's trading affairs in the international arena due to the health safety issues.
The senior researcher feels that the country still has a two to three weeks window to go through before it is too late.
According to Ashikur, the only approach is to impose a hard curfew-style lockdown immediately after Eid.
He left the decision on the public health experts and epidemiologists to decide how the hard lockdown should be in place – zonal or nationwide.
Dr Maliha Mannan dissents with the use of the term curfew as it is evident from the past that people will disobey it.
Terming next two weeks very crucial for the country, the health leadership expert emphasized on implementing hard lockdown with proper planning by identifying red, orange, and green zones depending on the state of transmission or hotspots.
Quoting the six criteria to lift lockdown by the World Health Organization (WHO), she said: “The current pandemic state in the country is nowhere near to have it lifted right now.”
Barrister Rashna Imam brought the adverse impacts of lockdown into light and criticized the planning and execution of the measures taken by the government to flatten the curve of the Covid-19 situation.
She also spoke on the implication of curfew as well.
In her discussion, the barrister also criticized the government's lack of initiatives to create awareness among people and gain support from them to face the pandemic.
In their discussions, both Dr Ashikur and Dr Maliha emphasized on ensuring proper treatment facilities along with coordinated isolation measures.
Every discussant also raised questions over not introducing antibody and antigen testing in the country.
The rapid tests, especially the antigen should have started much earlier, they said.
Meanwhile, Brac Executive Director Asif Saleh said taking the scenario of the country under consideration, it can be argued that social distancing is impossible to implement.
“So, before lifting the lockdown, we need to ensure good mask behaviours,” he added.
To ensure the use of masks by all, the government along with NGOs should provide masks to the mass people, the moderator of the program opined following the suggestion.
Pointing out that although there is talk over lifting the lockdown, he said: “The government is yet to give any strategy on how the people would return to work.”
The online program drew huge attention from the viewers. The viewers raised concern about employing smart epidemiologists, having no pharmacists at the hospitals, adopting a public health approach to curve Covid-19, and the use of effective measures for creating awareness among people.