That the new coronavirus variant Omicron is super contagious has already been confirmed. It is wreaking havoc, in terms of infection, in Europe and the USA. New Covid cases per day in the USA have more than tripled over the past two weeks.
The rate of infection is also picking up in some Asian countries. Bangladesh too is witnessing a sudden resurgence of Covid infection. The daily rate of infection has increased to nearly 5.0 per cent from a little over 1.0 per cent in a gap of two to three weeks.
Despite its high transmissibility, experts in the relevant field are still not sure about the deadly nature of Omicron. Some say Omicron is not as deadly as Delta. Delta, after claiming several million lives across the world, has taken a back seat in recent days. A section of virologists has even termed the Omicron as a natural vaccine because it would help produce sufficient antibodies and create fewer health problems for its victims.
True, compared to a higher rate of infections, the number of death from Omicron infections has been negligible until now. Doctors say Omicron-infected people in most cases do not need hospitalisation. Amidst wider Omicron infections, hopes are running high that the year 2022 will see the end of Covid pandemic. Experts, however, are certain that the virus will be there and that people across the globe will have to live with it, as in the case of some other pathogens. None would mind such coexistence, provided the virus remains less virulent.
In Bangladesh, as the rates of infection and fatality came down to very low levels, a sense of relief was noticed everywhere. Few people complied with health safety guidelines. The authorities too took a relaxed stance. The health ministry, however, continued with its efforts to vaccinate more and more people, including school students.
The health authorities are showing signs of activity lately with Covid infections rising again. The government is planning to impose some restrictions within this week or next. But any lockdown is unlikely soon, the health minister has indicated.
It is very difficult to stop the entry of viruses, particularly when you allow people to come in from abroad. Even most developed countries equipped with the most modern gadgets have not been successful in doing that.
Bangladesh airports, seaports and land ports have weak surveillance and monitoring systems. Though the relevant authorities have promises to ensure a better and improved health screening system at the ports, people coming from abroad can easily dodge screening and come out of the ports without a health check-up. Everybody knows what had happened earlier in the name of quarantining. There should be no reason to expect a better situation this time also.
The health minister has said a guideline detailing restrictions would be announced shortly. He, however, has explained a few. One restriction, he has referred to, is quite interesting. According to the health minister, anyone taking food inside a restaurant will have to produce his/her Covid vaccine card to enjoy that privilege!
Such a restrictive measure can be implemented in posh restaurants. Is it feasible in a country where thousands of small and medium wayside restaurants employ people to attract customers?
Instead of taking up measures that cannot be implemented, the government should choose practical steps that can help check the spread of Coivid infections afresh. Besides, the authorities should keep a close watch on the rate of admission of Covid patients to hospitals side by side making all the necessary preparations for effectively handling any health emergency.
The vaccination programme, more or less, is on the right track. But the rate of daily vaccination needs to be increased manifold. The country has all the infrastructure and trained manpower to increase the daily rate of vaccination manifold.