The Financial Express
Swasti Lankabangla Swasti Lankabangla

Indifference may prove too costly

| Updated: March 20, 2020 22:16:30

Indifference may prove too costly

While the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been laying particular emphasis on testing the coronavirus suspects, the health authorities here, deliberately or otherwise, has preferred to be indifferent to the need for making necessary preparation.

"You cannot fight a fire while blindfolded," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told journalists on Tuesday last. "Test, test, test. Test every suspected case", he told the media Tuesday.

The most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission. And to do that, you must test and isolate, the WHO DG said.

The Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR), a public health agency dealing with COVID-19 disease issues in Bangladesh, however, had not been forthcoming in the matters of testing.

And the number of tests done so far by the Institute tells it all. A total of 341 samples have so far been tested since January 21. South Korea which has a population less than one-third of Bangladesh until Wednesday last conducted 2,70,000 tests.

That Far Eastern nation is one of the worst-affected countries, but has fewer deaths, only 84. It has tracked down corona suspects instead of putting them into so-called home quarantine, conducted tests and, if necessary, kept them in isolation. Besides, they have conducted massive nationwide operation to disinfect every public place, including transport.

The opposite has happened in the case of Italy. Despite having all the resources, the country is worst hit and the people are falling like birds everyday there. It is just because the administration there did not take the threat from coronavirus seriously from the beginning.

The IEDCR has behaved miserly in the matters of corona tests. It even did not conduct tests on most people who were put into quarantine into the government-designated places after coming from abroad, including Italy, one of the worst affected countries. What most others who were advised to put themselves into home quarantine on arrival from abroad have done is known to all.  

Allegations have it that some people who have developed corona-like symptoms have been failing to reach the IEDCR over telephone. Those who are able to reach the institute are reportedly told to remain in home quarantine and contact their own physicians.

The plausible reason for the IEDCR being reluctant to be adequately responsive in the matters of testing could be the shortage of necessary kits. It has a very small stock of testing kits, around 1,500 or so.

The poor stock of testing kits, actually, exposes the lack of seriousness on the part of the country's health authorities. The government has got enough time to make necessary preparation to face any outbreak of coronavirus in the country, but it has failed to fathom the gravity of the situation. 

What is worse, the government is not ready to allow the private health facilities to carry out corona tests. The logic being put forward by the authorities for taking such a stance is not at all convincing.

The situation is even more dangerous in the case of medical staff of government health facilities, particularly the large ones. The doctors and nurses have alleged that they have become vulnerable to corona infection since they do not have personal protective equipment (PPE). IEDCR Director Meerjady Sabrina Flora while briefing the media Wednesday last admitted that there was a scarcity of PPEs. Yet a minimum number of PPEs were handed over to the hospital authorities earlier, she said.

In the absence of personal safety, doctors at the government hospitals, allegedly, have been refusing to attend patients even with symptoms of common cold. It is hard to blame doctors in a situation like the present one.

However, it is a piece of welcome news that China has decided to send on an emergency basis 10,000 corona test kits and relevant other medical equipment to Bangladesh as a symbol goodwill gesture. However, the arrival of the Chinese supply might take a month or so.



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