The first COVID-19 cases were detected in Bangladesh on 8 March, three months after the outbreak was first reported in China in December last year. Bangladesh had over three months to prepare for the battle against the contagious disease. As the pandemic began spreading in Asia and Europe, it was said in the local media that Bangladesh did not have necessary preparation to tackle it. The government, however, kept on saying it had all the required preparation.
The statement, however, has not yet proved. On the 100th day of the first detection, the infection rate in Bangladesh was found much higher than that of neighbouring India and Pakistan. The health system too nearly collapsed while fighting COVID-19. The crisis of medical care for common patients has been intensified at 53 per cent hospitals. More than a thousand medical workers have been infected by the virus due to substandard PPE being supplied at 71 per cent hospitals when 35 physicians have already died.
As the curve of infection is continuously uphill, the mistakes and limitations should be evaluated. The fact that our government policymakers have limitations to realise any problem might have contributed to the delay in taking preparation for COVID-19 when the epidemic turned into a pandemic. As the government became active to fight the pandemic after much time was lost, acute lack of management and governance was exposed too. Regarding this, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has published a report titled ‘Governance challenges in tackling coronavirus’. It said coronavirus situation has worsened in the country due to the lack of coordination and planning in various government initiatives as well as contradictory and misleading action.
We are facing a complicated situation regarding the treatment of 95,000 COVID-19 patients as well as other patients along with sample collection and test. We are facing complication regarding the implementation of zone-wise lockdown, ensuring people sticking to health guidelines and food security of huge poor people. The lack of good governance in the way the state is run is the primary and fundamental reason for this.
COVID-19 has exposed that a culture of irregularity, mismanagement and unaccountability has been developed here. It’s so upsetting that the irregularity and corruption have not stopped during such a coronavirus crisis.
We will not be able to progress if the lack of good governance is duly addressed. TIB has made a 15-point recommendation to improve governance and management in order to fight the pandemic. These include spreading sample test in districts by the proper use of equipment and manpower at government and private levels, increasing tests, increasing allocation for health sector in the budget. The TIB recommendations would contribute to better tackling COVID-19. We hope without rejecting the report as usual the government should consider the recommendation and take initiative to improve governance, management as well as coordination.