The unfolding spectacle of the pandemic now looks more ominous than ever before. Any hope that the year 2021 will be better than the previous year has already been dashed. Bangladesh, like European countries in particular and some of its neighbours, is also bracing for an ominously high incidence of infections and deaths from Covid-19.
Already its hospitals are overwhelmed. How overwhelmed has been poignantly presented by a picture carried in a leading English contemporary. In the picture the son of a mother lying dead in an ambulance in front of Mugda General Medical College and Hospital ---apparently a coronavirus victim ---is seen wailing inconsolably. Before bringing his mother there, he took her to another five hospitals but not one of those could arrange for providing her with oxygen.
In time of such an unprecedented catastrophe, the bigger picture is lost in the maze of number. Personal losses ---however intense and agonising --- hardly melt hearts of others in a manner they should. It is only those who go through the trauma feel the agony and their hearts bleed ceaselessly. Families which have lost their only earning member or had to bear the astronomical hospital expenses know how hostile the time and the world are. Even for families who had a bout with the disease with even some members spared the travail of hospitalisation, time is treacherous and they encountered moments of extreme anxiety and uncertainty until their near and dear ones were declared Covid-free.
The first wave claimed the lives of, among many unknown people, some of the illustrious and brightest men and women ---men in particular ---this land produced. This country is missing their enlightened and considerate guidance. What toll will the second wave already looking more terrifying with the setting of high summer take in the days when the mercury will rise further up?
This time the exponential increase in infection cases and higher deaths give the impression that the pathogen is unlike the one that struck the country earlier. Either it is the United Kingdom variant or a locally mutated variant similar to that of the UK. One expert was even heard to say that if there is a presence of the South African strain anywhere, even the vaccine will be of no use. This country has the expertise to sequence deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and should come up with an answer to this messy question through genome sequencing of the new variant.
A clear answer will not bring about a change in the rampage caused by the virus but at least help the medical and hygiene preparedness against it. In fact, an answer should have been there for the health authorities to devise its course of action. Instead, it is found once again caught off-guard and hence patients have either to be turned out or die without treatment. It is the time when field hospitals could be most useful. But those have long gone out of operation.
The spectre of deaths and sufferings of unattended patients and their relatives looms large like it has done in the United States of America under President Trump, Brazil and many other countries in the initial stage. What a tragedy, it is happening at a time when vaccination is going on! For Bangladesh, inoculation programme could not be started earlier than this by any means. Yet things seem to be falling apart now.
Personal tragedies ultimately translate into a mammoth national catastrophe. The weight of a death and loss of savings can break a family and so does the cumulative burden the backbone of national economy and progress. Before the nation could achieve herd immunity, it became so euphoric over the reduction of cases of death and infection that it started behaving casually and at times insanely. It is now paying the price. The question is, how heavy the price will be.