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The Financial Express

Surviving the fallout of Covid-19


Surviving the fallout of Covid-19

As the corona test positivity rate continues to drop, with the death toll from the disease falling slowly, people in general are heaving sighs of relief. Those who kept themselves confined to their homes for an inordinately longer period had started coming out at long last. The mid-level traders and various types of government and private offices resumed activities a long time back. Schools and colleges have resumed their usual curricular activities on a limited scale; and the students' fun and joviality are back. These scenes are now common in the urban areas in particular.

In this supposedly Covid-19-free ambience, the long shut public universities are engaged in giving finishing touches to their efforts to reopening their classroom doors. One-and-half years have elapsed since the institutions were declared shut. The higher education sector has already made an appraisal of the deleterious impacts of the long closure on the students' academic careers. If things continue to bode well and keep up the jaunty mood on the campuses, the nation can expect to get back its earlier briskness at their institutions. Against this upbeat atmosphere, everybody looks forward to hearing the eagerly awaited announcement of Bangladesh being declared corona-free --- unlike, of course, its neighbouring countries. But some hostile forces still lurk beneath the auspicious layers of regenerative mood. They relate to a few mindless public behaviours. A section of people still keeps themselves away from being vaccinated. Segments of them are spreading baseless rumours about the adverse impacts of the jabs. Despite seeing people living in their neighbourhoods get inoculated in a jovial mood, they keep themselves away from the vaccination centres.

Many advance the idea of nabbing the people who create obstructions to the national programme of battling Covid-19. Good news is the number of people impeding the corona vaccination campaigns and inviting life-threatening hazards for themselves and others is dropping fast. It's mainly because many government and non-government facilities have made it mandatory for the service-seekers to provide the 2-dose vaccine cards. The red bold-letter notices saying 'No vaccine, No service' are now a common view at the entrance of banks, business transaction and public utility centres, and lots of offices visited daily by the members of the public.

The Covid-19 pandemic-induced requirement of the proofs of vaccination has lately assumed the proportions of an imperative of national significance. The WHO chief of the Covid-19 department at the UN has categorically warned that situations have not reached any satisfactory level of taking heart from. The grim reality is the corona pandemic is far from being over, she says forthrightly. The outbreak of the dreadful virus is feared to start wreaking havoc on humanity at intervals for years to come, she observes, adding at the moment, it is mainly the 'unvaccinated people (carrying the corona virus)' who will be spreading the disease in close localities and neighbourhoods. Upon reading the alarming news, lots of conscious people haven't wasted time to urge their governments to keep provisions for exemplary punishments for the vaccine-dodging people. Few could be a more apt public reaction.

The reason people react sharply to the defiance of people vis-à-vis proper inoculation is implied. The moods of despair and worries are more pronounced in the least developed countries than in their economically advanced counterparts. Bangladesh falls within the former category. In spite of the pandemic prevalence being on the decline, its myriad socio-economic impacts have only started surfacing. Apart from the government and semi-government service holders, as well as the employees at the large private and multinational companies, the large and mid-level business people were able to survive the sudden economic blow dealt to them by the pandemic.

There is a flipside.  Faint signs are there showing that the 18-month-long nightmare is going to be over in the coming days. That means the economically stronger segments will somehow survive the pandemic impacts. Moreover, the government has taken up different programmes for distributing stimulus among the economically affected segments in society --- businesses in particular. These measures have, apparently, added to the business communities' efforts at recovering their losses incurred during the pandemic shutdown. Unfortunately, the allegations of 'irregularities' during preparing lists of the affected individuals and houses have been rife since the beginning. Amid these ill-timed 'glitches', the small businesses have discovered themselves being shoved into the periphery. These entities include recognised cottage industries and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), village based tiny-capital handicraft workshops etc. But the most affected of the monthly income-based people are the service people at private companies. Non-MPO schools and colleges, and even obscure universities, comprise these job sources. The teachers still attend their institutions in the hope of getting some sortof grants from the government. Conforming to these universities' standards, the students' drop-out rate increased sharply during the peak of the pandemic.

Due to the average students being from the lower-middle class, the authorities couldn't exert much pressure on them for tuition fees. Students started deserting the universities leaving their teachers idling away their time waiting for the pandemic to be over. Few of these universities have been able to return to their pre-pandemic state of normalcy after the shutdown was over. On the other hand, lots of private offices, small clinics and travel agencies have been declared shut; amid periodic retrenchments. A large section of these people are still without jobs.

Meanwhile, there is heartening news too. TheIndian AstraZeneca vaccines set to arrive in Bangladesh months back are being sent to the country in October. The promised export of the vaccines, numbering 1 million, has recently been approved by the Indian government. The vaccines are being sent under the Indian programme of 'Vaccine Maitri'. Apart from the Indian AZ jabs, Bangladesh is expecting more vaccines from the USA. However, mere increase in the volume of foreign vaccines may not enable the country to weather the feared economic crises. In reversing the dread, all kinds of woes bred by unemployment should be kept at bay.

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