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We have failed to ensure the proper health services. A lockdown or strict restriction is on, however the initiatives taken to control the pandemic are not enough. There are some methods to control a pandemic. We are yet to focus on those.

For example, the first step is to identify the infected patients and keep them, including their family members, in quarantine. It is the duty of neighbours to buy the groceries or medicines for them, that is, social participation is essential to contain the transmission of the virus.

The infected person may not leave the house, but people go to the patient’s house. Therefore, ensuring quarantine for all members of the family of the patients is a must.

If the patient or any one of the family is in a critical condition, he or she should be taken to a hospital immediately. If all the members of the family are tested negative within three weeks, then they can resume their natural movements. It is termed as “mop up” in virology, that is, to ensure the eradication of the virus.

Asymptomatic people can also spread the virus. To prevent this spread, we have to ensure that everyone wears the mask. If an asymptomatic patient wears a mask, 96 per cent of the virus can be screened. And if a non-infected person wears a mask, the remaining four per cent of the virus can be screened too. In this way the transmission of the virus can be contained by ensuring the use of masks.

However, instead of doing that, we are stopping cars on the roads and checking them. The pandemic cannot be eradicated in this way. Protection from the virus should be ensured not only on the roads but also in localities, in homes.

Fast sample testing is more important now. Samples collected for coronavirus test at upazila levels are sent to districts. As a result, people at the upazila levels get their test results after a number of days. Up to that point, a person cannot know whether he or she is infected with coronavirus or not.

After the detection of the delta variant in the country, some initiatives were taken initially at the border areas. However, that was in effect for the passport holders, not for the informal commuters. There is need to increase awareness at the community level to encourage the people to abide by the health guideline for this.

However, that was not done. If that were done, we would have been in a relatively safer position. As the movement of the passport holders was controlled, the emergence of the delta variant in the country was delayed to some extent.

The health services are not working properly at the moment. It must be ensured that these service are working properly. Wearing masks must be ensured.

*Nazrul Islam is the former vice-chancellor, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU)

*This article, originally published in print and online edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu.

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