The Financial Express

Covid: Hope and despair

| Updated: November 20, 2020 22:27:11

Covid: Hope and despair

It's a mixed bag of news as far as the Covid pandemic is concerned.

Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have raised hope among billions across the world. The efficacy of their vaccines that use a synthetic version of a molecule called 'messenger RNA" is now proved beyond doubt.

The Moderna's vaccine, in particular, has removed most part of the worries over storage and transportation of vaccines. The vaccine developed by it can be preserved in standard refrigerator temperatures (2.0 to 8.0-degree centigrade) for 30 days and it could be stored for up to six months at minus 20-degree centigrade.

 The New York Times (NYT) on Tuesday last carried yet another piece of good news. In a report, the NYT, quoting the results of a research study carried out by the La Jolla Institute of Immunology, said the antibodies and T-cells created in human bodies following coronavirus infection may last for years, not for months, or even decades. In that case, it will not be necessary for the people to take vaccines every six months or every year. That will certainly be a big relief. 

Most part of the world is now witnessing a strong resurgence of the deadly pathogen. It is now proving to be more virulent in the USA and Europe than the first wave. The infection rate has been reaching new highs in several countries almost every day during the past two weeks or so. Hospitals and health workers are overwhelmed by the onrush of Covid patients.

Now, what is about the latest Covid situation in Bangladesh?

The authorities have been cautioning the people about the possible 'second wave' of the pandemic for the past few weeks. It is hard to say whether the wave has arrived or not. The Covid fatality and new infection rates have been on the rise during the past few days. Health experts say if the upward trend persists for another week or so, there should be reasons to believe that the 'second wave' has hit the country.

But could the arrival of the wave be avoided?  

The advent of the winter season does not necessarily mean that the virus will make a comeback with full venom. In many Chinese cities, including capital Beijing, the day's lowest temperature now is '0' degree or even lower. But none of the Chinese cities has reported Covid-19 infection or death in recent weeks.

The situation largely depends on how serious the people are about following the safeguard measures and what the government is doing on its part to ensure that. On both counts, we should have ample reasons to accept failures. The performance of the country's health authorities during the 'first wave' had been well below the expectation. The majority of the population, seemingly, detest face mask, which, according to health experts, is no less important than vaccine right at this moment.

Then again some actions do create confusion over the government's approach. For instance, during the second friendly match between Bangladesh and Nepal held on Tuesday last, the Bangladesh Football Federation (BFF) allowed thousands of spectators inside the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka. This should not have been done. These days, galleries of stadia do remain empty even when big sports events take place across the world.  

The government does recognise the importance of face masks, but its actions to compel people to wear those appear half-hearted. The council of ministers sometime back made wearing of masks in all public places mandatory. But the initiative to enforce the order was not there. After a few days, the government in another directive asked the people to wear masks while attending prayers in mosques. Why there should be a separate order for mosques when wearing masks has already been made mandatory in public places?

Now a decision has been taken to institute mobile courts for taking actions against people found not wearing face masks. This decision needs to be enforced strictly.

Besides, the government should re-impose some restrictions on public gatherings, marketing hours, physical distancing in public transports, including buses and trains, and operational hours of hotels and restaurants and private clubs.

The good news is that Covid vaccines have been found to be exceptionally effective. But the same may not be available soon in Bangladesh. So, the protection against coronavirus at the individual level would depend on the appropriate use of safeguard measures, maybe, for some more months.


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