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Whether the second wave of novel coronavirus has started hitting the Bangladesh communities or not, the experts can say. But the recent trend of infection recorded by the government agencies tells us something new. And Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina repeatedly said the infection rate may go up during the winter. With the winter setting in, the Director General of Health Services (DGHS) reports over 2,000 people are contracting coronavirus every day. The number of deaths also is creeping up.

Europe, America and many other countries hit hard by the second wave of the COVID-19 tightened restrictions to contain the spread of the menace. Can Bangladesh afford prolonged restrictions including enforcement of lockdowns? It is a big question and difficult to answer. When the Bangladesh government enforced lockdown in March, and gradually eased restrictions since June, one section of people vehemently delivered tirade against it, while another group stood by the decision. Who is right, there is scope to argue. A bank manager said many people would die of hunger if the restriction was not withdrawn.

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Bangladesh, a country of over 160 million people, has little health facilities, let alone to deal with coronavirus patients. Prevention is better than cure is an old phrase which goes well with this small country with big population. The government has perceived this and the cabinet has taken a decision 'no masks, no services' at government and private offices. Still many people flouted the health guidelines and thronged to the general post office (GPO) to receive services. Fearless or careless, they must realise the situation is worsening.

Out of fear or caution, people stayed home, following various measures and took Vitamin C to augment immunity to fight the deadly menace. As many as 57 million have been infected while 1.13 million people have so far died worldwide. In Bangladesh, some 445,281 people have been contracted with coronavirus since the first report on 8 March till 21 November. And 6,350 patients have died since the first report of death on 18 March. However, many believe both the number of deaths and infection is higher than the official count.

At the advent of winter and the gravity of the situation, it is high time the people in general are adequately cautious and follow the health guidelines to fight the deadly disease. A massive campaign needs to be launched creating awareness among the people about the risks of infection. The government can enforce some restrictions on a limited scale not harming the daily businesses.

It is not time to go out without masks and it is not time to go out without purpose. Let us fight the virus courageously. To fear or not to fear, be cautious.

*Rabiul Islam is a journalist at Prothom Alo. He can be reached at rabiulshamil@gmail.com.

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