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The Financial Express

Health experts, economists for lockdown, curfew

SANEM hosts webinar on 'Covid-19


FE REPORT | Published: June 07, 2020 10:13:07 | Updated: June 08, 2020 17:16:37


A bus picks up passengers from the middle of a road in Shantinagar area of Dhaka city on Thursday without maintaining any health safety guidelines amid the coronavirus outbreak — FE photo/Files A bus picks up passengers from the middle of a road in Shantinagar area of Dhaka city on Thursday without maintaining any health safety guidelines amid the coronavirus outbreak — FE photo/Files

Health experts and economists have urged the government to impose a strict lockdown along with a curfew for at least a month to contain the spread of COVID-19.

They said one or two weeks' lockdown would not bring any positive results as the coronavirus takes at least 14 days' time to show its symptoms.

The experts blamed a lack of coordination, bureaucratic tangle and poor spending on corona management for the rapid spread of the superbug despite having scope for early preparedness.

They said the country's healthcare system should be reshuffled, addressing the entire public, private and non-governmental organisations' healthcare system.

The experts were speaking at a webinar hosted by the South Asian Network on Economic Modelling (SANEM) on 'COVID-19 and Health System of Bangladesh' on Saturday.

"Now, what is emergency for us is to impose a one-month strict lockdown with curfew for the containment of pandemic," public-health expert Dr Muhammad Abdus Sabur told the programme.

For this, the adjunct professor at the Institute of Health Economics at Dhaka University said Bangladesh needs to feed at least 20-million people for a month to neutralise the pandemic.

"We've been telling stories of 8.0-per cent GDP for almost 10 years. What's the point of such growth if we can't feed 20 million for a month?" he questioned.

Speaking as a panel speaker, Mr Sabur said some people are suggesting a two-week lockdown again but two weeks will not work.

He said this deadly coronavirus takes at least two weeks to affect an individual.

"If we impose one month's strict lockdown, we would know how many people get infected in two weeks and how they will be treated," he observed.

Mr Sabur said the private healthcare system has gone out of control, adding that private caregivers were never ready to treat infectious diseases.

"A patient is a patient-no matter the disease is AIDS or COVID, hospitals must render them service," he went on to say.

The health expert said, "Infections have already crossed 60,000. If we can't contain now, everything will go out of control."

Prof Dr Shah Monir Hossain, former director general of the Directorate General of Health Services, suggested imposing at least three weeks' lockdown.

Cluster lockdowns should be imposed in highly infected areas, he said.

"We projected that lockdown can be lifted in the first week of June. The interventions weren't as per plans, so the projection has no value," he commented.

Prof Hossain said coronavirus would not leave so soon, the existing wave of infections may go until August.

He said the decisions are not coming from health experts or they are not being made in consultation with health experts.

The country's healthcare system has totally collapsed during the pandemic, he added.

Prof Hossain is one of the eight members of a government-formed expert committee to supervise, monitor and support the coronavirus response.

He said experts made a preparedness and response plan for the pandemic, but they are not implemented.

Prof Hossain said the health policy is being taken as per the number of hospital beds available.

"But public health budget should be taken as per population, not on the number of hospital beds."

Health economist Prof Dr Rumana Haque of Dhaka University said the healthcare system did not get priority of policy-makers even in this trying time.

Health department needs to increase skills on financial management in an emergency situation, she added.

SANEM executive director Dr Selim Raihan conducted the webinar.

He said the country should take the lesson from the pandemic that public healthcare system should be improved and given priority.

"The pandemic also showed us failure and irresponsibility of private healthcare," he uttered.

Dr Raihan said corruption should be contained along with the pandemic in the healthcare system.

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