Alongside announcing another extension of the ongoing 'general holidays' until May 16, the government this time has allowed shops and shopping malls to start transactions 'on a limited scale' from May 10. This is to enable the public to carry out their Eid shopping, though, by maintaining the safety protocols of 'social distancing,' 'hand-sanitizing,' etc to ward off the Covid-19 contagion.
Meanwhile, the government has also allowed a good number of garment factories to operate, while small industrial units at the district levels have got the official green signal to resume their activities. Prime minister during one of her recent views exchanging engagements with officials and public representatives from districts, stressed the objective of all such exemptions being to 'keep the wheels of the economy moving'. Clearly, it is going to be a more relaxed pandemic containment practice than had been the case when it started five weeks back and the reasons for which are also not hard to see. Other nations across the globe have in the mean time experienced the worst part of their pandemic attack with the transmission of the virus among their people reaching its peak before they opted for gradually opening up their economies. Bangladesh has, while taking a gradualist approach earlier on, braved a slightly bolder approach lately. And that is understandable, given its disproportionately huge population to feed as well as keeping in view its specific social, behavioural and economic realities. It has to strike a balance between safety of public health and resurrection of livelihoods.
Bangladesh has to weigh up its options in such a manner that more life could be saved both by fighting the pandemic as well as allowing people to work, earn and survive as far as possible. So, the challenge is one of reconciling these two mutually contrarian yet inclusive aspects of the war against the Covid-19 pandemic. The problem is until an effective preventive vaccine is developed against the virus, which may take months, the containment measures now in force worldwide remain intrinsically important. For, there is no guarantee that a second wave of pandemic may not visit even after the peaking phase has passed.
Against this backdrop, Bangladesh has chosen a pragmatic course, may be a little too early, but if underpinned by compliance with the known instructions the hazards to life can be minimised. The steps so far taken to save farmers through procurement of 2.1 million maunds of boro crop, while at the same time providing them with subsidies as well as outright grants to buy inputs for the next crops, it is hoped, would ensure food security for the nation. Success of this move, however, would depend a lot on the efficiency of the government agencies involved to avoid intermediaries. Similarly, the Tk 200 billion worth of low-interest credit as working capital extended to small, medium and micro-level industries would keep millions in job across the country through such difficult times.
The most important point here is to have a survival strategy as the bed-rock of rapid and sustainable development for the nation and its people. At the same time the people follow the widely used practice of containing the pandemic, responsibly at the individual and community levels. Government agencies, health experts and experienced NGOs are expected to come up with robust commitment and dedication to making an exit strategy work better. The antenna needs to be kept high to pick up signals in terms of antidotes found globally to come out of the woods.
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