That an increased number of front-line health workers, including doctors and nurses, are being infected with deadly coronavirus is a matter of grave concern. The fear is that this might affect even the prevailing level of medical attention the Covid-19 patients have been receiving at different hospitals. Of the total number of people found infected with coronavirus, 11 per cent are reportedly doctors, nurses and other health workers. The rate, compared to the global rate of 1.46 per cent, is very high. However, in some severely affected countries, the rate is even higher -- in Spain the rate is over 14 per cent. In Spain, Italy and France, more than 30 doctors have died and many more had to self-isolate.
The high rate of infection among health workers has, however, triggered worries among the health authorities. They are now looking for reasons. Health experts and researchers have listed factors such as poor management of hospitals, supply of inferior quality personal protective equipment (PPE) and health workers' lack of expertise on this highly contagious disease that, according to them, are largely responsible for the front-line health workers becoming easy target of the virus.
It is not that doctors and health workers serving in hospitals selected for treating Covid-19 patients are the only people who carry the risk of being infected. Health workers at non-Covid hospitals and clinics might also get the disease while handling asymptomatic Covid-patients. It is suspected that a sizeable number of people do not show any symptoms despite being infected with the corona virus. The detection of such infection is only possible through extensive tests. Unfortunately, only people showing symptoms of Covid-19 disease are being tested in Bangladesh. This could be due to the shortage of testing kits and inadequate testing facilities. At any rate, the government has got a move on to enhance capacities in these respects.
During the initial days of outbreak of the Covid-19 here, relevant health workers' response to patients left much to be desired. Allegations have it that physicians, nurses and other attendants in the hospitals treating Covid-19 patients are still not adequately sincere and devoted to their tasks. In such a situation, it is very natural on the part of aggrieved people to make allegations. But if the health workers are provided with all safety gears, there should be no reason for them not to work with utmost sincerity. The directorate general of health services (DGHS) claims that they have made available enough protective gears for the frontline health workers. However, a raging debate is on over the quality of those, including face masks.
In the severely corona-hit countries, including Italy, Spain, France, the United Kingdom and the United States, frontline health workers are being given hero's welcome by citizens for the services they have been rendering even under extreme conditions. In some of these countries, doctors and other health workers are also facing problem with personal protective equipment (PPE), but that could not stop them from doing their work.
The government has announced a few incentives for front-line health workers, but safety remains at the top of everything. So, it is important to ensure maximum safeguards for them and the authorities do know how that can be ensured. Yet another issue -- a sizeable number of policemen are getting infected with virus in Dhaka and some other places -- does also deserve attention of the authorities. The dormitories used by the policemen could be potential sources of infection. The Ministry of Home Affairs should look into the problem before it goes out of hand. The on-duty police personnel should also be provided with the minimum protective gears.
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