The lockdown announced by the government for a week from Monday to deal with the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic is sudden and unexpected. At the time of issuing the 18-point notification on 29 March to curb the spread of the infection, there was no indication that a nationwide lockdown could be declared in less than a week. Infection and death rates are already rising at alarming levels, but experts gave no hint about such an extreme decision as a lockdown to deal with the new situation. The question is whether the lockdown is inevitable, and also if it is actually possible to make it effective.
On Friday, just before the government announced the lockdown, the ministry of health and the department of health education conducted the MBBS first year admission tests in 55 places across the country, including Dhaka. News reports showed of more than 116,000 candidates and their guardians crowded in exam centres. It seems the health ministry had no qualms about high rates of infection across the country. However, experts in this situation were against taking exams.
Ignoring the advice of experts, the health ministry showed irresponsibility and indiscretion, and the very next day the government's lockdown announcement showed that there was a great lack of prudence, foresight, coordination and timeliness in the decision-making process needed to deal with the second wave of the pandemic. The ministry has not in fact adopted any plan, there is no certainty as to what decision is being taken and at what time. If this continues, it will be very difficult to deal with the new wave of the epidemic.
But now that the lockdown has been announced for a week, every effort should be made to make it as effective as possible. Even this decision will not go in vain, if the lockdown can reduce crowds and make progress in creating and maintaining social distance. However, we noticed last year that it was not possible to implement a lockdown in a densely populated country like Bangladesh. Apart from that, the economic impact of the lockdown on a large number of poor and low-income people in this country is a matter of serious concern. We are not aware whether the government has planned anything regarding the livelihood of the large number of people. This issue is by no means negligible.
But as the rate of infection and the number of patients continue to rise, the focus must be on saving the lives of Covid patients. Additional initiatives need to be taken to improve the quality of treatment, including adequate oxygen, ICU services. Medical funds should be increased and proper utilisation of the funds should be ensured. Initiatives should be taken to make the overall medical management more efficient, responsible and organised. Accountability of those responsible must also be ensured.
Individual, family, and institutional initiatives need to be put in place to make everyone more responsible about wearing masks, regular hand washing, maintaining physical distance, and other hygiene measures to prevent further spread of infection.