The Financial Express

Covid: Half-truths and confusions  

Covid: Half-truths and confusions   

One has got valid reasons to be confused over the behaviour of the relevant policymakers in relation to containing the dreaded coronavirus infection.

It has become truly difficult to keep track of the developments surrounding the official move/s to contain the virus. At one point of time, it seems that the war against the deadly virus is everybody's business and, at another, it does appear that it is nobody's business.

The authorities, apparently, have lately decided not do anything extra and let the deadly virus move freely from one place to another. It is, however, not clear whether the inaction on the part of health sector policy planners is designed to help develop so-called 'herd immunity' among the population.

There were lots of sound and fury in the official circle over launching programmes and projects to beat the novel coronavirus even some weeks back. Health experts and relevant others had been talking a lot in the media about dividing the country, particularly major cities, into coloured zones in the matters of clamping 'lockdown' on the areas with high rate of Covid infections. But amidst all the noises, the health authorities preferred to maintain total silence.

Now the issue of zoning is no more discussed. Experts and the media, particularly the electronic ones, could guess well about the fate of zoning and hence they, too, have decided to ignore the issue.

However, Bangladesh is a land where one does not have to wait for new issues for long. With an apparent demise of zoning and lockdown issues, a new issue---the Regent Hospital---has emerged in no time and, as expected, the traditional media and social media have got something to discuss about, at least, for a few days. They, however, will soon lose interest in the Regent issue, but, in the meanwhile, something new will definitely emerge.

So, issues of varying import will surface and die down as part of natural process. But, a pertinent question---where do we stand in the matters of Covid-19 infections?--- must be bothering many minds. The statistics dished out on the daily basis by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS)--- are not that much useful in finding an answer. For, the DGHS data are, in many cases, inconsistent and tend to give birth to a number of questions instead.

The additional director general (administration) reads out the DGHS bulletin on Covid situation on daily basis. Though it is done virtually, she does not take any question from the media. Her reply to questions from media men could have helped dispel confusions or misgivings, if there is any.

For instance, the number of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) labs doing Covid tests has gradually increased to 74, but the number of samples tested by those has gone down for the past couple of weeks. The DGHS does not explain the reasons. Is it for shortage of kits or for introducing fees for Covid testing?

Then again, why are the beds in the dedicated Covid hospitals empty when infections are at high level? The additional DG reads out the statistics, but does not utter a word about the reasons for the hospital beds remaining empty. What are the reasons? Is it because of poor service delivery? It could be that most patients prefer to stay home rather than taking hospital services. If the second one is true, the DGHS needs to follow it up and find out what happens to those patients infected with the deadly virus.

The third issue that has been agitating the minds of many is the 'recovery' rate. There is no denying that the news about higher recovery rate is always soothing to every ear. Yet that has created some confusion. Even a month back, the recovery rate was around 8.0 to 9.0 per cent. But, all on a sudden it started going up at a fast pace. Now, it is about to reach 50 per cent. Higher recovery is very much possible. The rate is around 60 in neighbouring India. But the recovery rate in India has always been consistently high.

It could be that more and more young people are getting the virus and because of their better immune response to the disease they make a fast recovery. The DGHS does not give an explanation about the higher recovery rate. Moreover, the agency should explain as to how it collects data on people dying or making recovery at their homes.

There exists a lack of transparency on the part of DGHS on many issues, including the data they dish out daily for public consumption.

There is a pressing need for monitoring efficiency and competence level of the people manning the health ministry and entities under its control. On many issues, they have left a lot to be desired in terms of due diligence.  Mismanagement and malpractice in the health sector have assumed a serious proportion. Unfortunately, there have not been tough actions against the evil practices. The situation is explained better with a note of resignation in Hindi: Chalta hai, chalta rehega (it does happen, don't bother, it will continue to happen).


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