The Financial Express

Tackling pandemic: Govt fails to engage major stakeholders, say experts

| Updated: April 09, 2021 18:56:19

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Speakers at a webinar on Thursday said the government did not engage major stakeholders, like - people's representatives, politicians and community leaders, in implementing instructions and restrictions to tackle the Covid pandemic.

Rather, it became more dependent on bureaucrats. As a result, people are not properly complying with the instructions.

They also observed that the policymakers became puzzled to decide on the right measures to control virus transmission during the pandemic second wave, although they predicted it much earlier.

Even the prime minister's instruction to install ICU beds in 64 districts, given 10 months ago, still remains unimplemented.

The Hunger Project organised the webinar, where Planning Minister Abdul Mannan was present as the chief guest.

The health experts expressed serious concern over the latest African variant of coronavirus, which was found among 81 per cent of patients after ICDDR,B and IEDCR conducted genome sequencing by taking samples from different districts.

The present Covishield vaccine is partially effective on the African variant that is very virulent and spreads fast.

They suggested that the authorities concerned must change the strategy of vaccination, and choose which vaccine should be given.

Professor Dr Be-nazir Ahmed, in his speech on the occasion, said there is a serious lacking of people's engagement in fighting the pandemic. The instructions and restrictions are given by the administration.

"I am very much frightened since I have come to know that 81 per cent of the present patients are infected with the African variant of coronavirus. I do not know where Bangladesh is heading to."

Appreciating the Hunger Project model in fighting the Covid outbreak, he also said if 80,000 villages, being provided with technology and technical support from the government/non-government and development partners, can be engaged and empowered in the fight against coronavirus, then not only the pandemic can be tackled, but they will play an important role during other health crises.

Dr Lelin Choudhury of Health and Hope Hospital said the research of ICDDR,B and IEDCR shows the presence of African variant in 81 per cent of the cases.

"Time has come that the policymakers should change their strategy immediately, especially regarding choosing vaccine. We've found that they have already messed up in giving instructions. Their confusion is clear in the 18-point instructions."

There is no sign of tackling the Covid pandemic by engaging people. There is no ICU even in 15 of the 29 high-risk districts. That's why it is the people who should build a corona-resilient lifestyle, he added.

World Health Organisation (WHO) Consultant Professor Muzaherul Huq said there was no preparation during the first wave of the pandemic.

But everyone knew there would be a second wave. Still, there is no visible target and strategy on the part of the government to end the pandemic.

"We have to achieve the target of herd immunity by providing vaccine to 120 million people. But we see no strategic planning to achieve this target. Although the government has tried to make people aware, it has failed in ensuring community participation."

The health system of the country has totally failed. The government must set a target and a strategy for ending the Covid pandemic in a stipulated timeframe, he added.

IEDCR Consultant Dr Mushtaq Hossain said lockdown is a very fearful word, and it is not an official term in public health.

Criticising various rumours, he noted that it is a dangerous propaganda that the poor are not getting infected with the coronavirus. They do not even come for testing themselves, thinking it a hassle.

He also said the goal is to reduce the virus transmission rate, for which some strategies are in place. Some offices and business centres will remain open, some will operate on a limited scale and some will be restricted, whereas inter-district transports will not be allowed.

"It is necessary to see whether the public transports are being operated by following health rules properly. There is much criticism regarding (continuation of) the book fair."

If people could stay at home for two weeks, the infection rate would have drastically dropped. But it is not possible, as the economic activities will be hampered, Dr Hossain opined.

That's why people should duly follow health rules. The shopping malls can remain open at night instead of remaining open for a few hours during the daytime which will create a rush.

Local small kitchen markets and shops can operate, as a low number of people go there, he added.

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