The Financial Express

Still the sole weapon against pandemic

Still the sole weapon against pandemic

With the advent of winter, Europe and North America saw a resurgence of the pandemic. Even worse, a new strain of the Covid-19 that can disseminate the infection faster was detected first in the UK and then in the rest of Europe and in different other parts of the world. There was no sign of the pandemic storm abating; rather wave after wave of the scourge crashed against the shores of Europe and the Americas. Scientists began to wonder if there were more waves of the pandemic following the second-a third or maybe a fourth! But in Bangladesh the picture was quite the opposite. There was no sign of the pandemic's resurgence in winter. On the other hand, after the pandemic first struck this part of the world in early March of 2020, it was on a rising curve reaching its peak in the middle of May when the daily infection or positivity rate went up to 20 and the trend continued, though it did not climb further, for the next five months and the best part of August. And then the infection rate began to fall off.

In fact, since the end of August last year, the Covid-19 infection rate in the country recorded a progressively declining trend. And the positivity rate continued to fall so much so that on February 13 of 2021 it recorded the lowest ever infection rate at 2.26 per cent. Even scientists and health experts were intrigued by the way the virus behaved. Many theories were put forward. Some said, it was the peculiar climatic condition here that was holding the pandemic in check. Some said the virus that infected us was but of a weaker variety, while others attributed it to the higher level of immunity of the people of Bangladesh. And perhaps the poorer people have stronger immunity against the pandemic than the privileged section of society, many believed. Meanwhile, the vaccine came. Though there are more vaccine-sceptics than believers in the country, still the vaccine was a source of reassurance for all. After the mass inoculation against the virus began from February 7, many who religiously followed the health protocols began to feel relieved that after all the pandemic scare was finally over. But was it? Though the weather is getting hotter with the hottest summer round the corner, far from declining further, this month saw a rather reverse trend. The pandemic seems to be resurging as on Wednesday (March 9), the daily infection rate was recorded at 5.0. That in other word, means, the daily infection rate at the moment is twice that recorded in the second week of February. And all of this is happening after more than four million people have already have got vaccinated.

This should worry us all. The health experts, however, never gave the people any assurance that after getting the jab they will be able to freely move around without sticking to the mandatory health guidelines. The warnings were always there: vaccine provided no guarantee against the virus. But few listened to those warnings.  We have meanwhile seen a rush of visitors at the tourist spots, crowds in the marketplaces, an increase in the number of social events! Even some among the conscious members of the citizenry, who never failed to wear mask when they went outside their homes, appeared rather lax after getting inoculated! What about the rest of the population? They did never give a damn about the health guidelines. The appearance of the vaccine has only made them bolder. Even the vestige of compliance with the health guidelines they had ever shown, if only due to the exhortations of those in authority or out of the fear of getting punished by the law-enforcers, was gone. Few of the working people- rickshaw, pushcart or auto-rickshaw drivers are wearing mask. Vaccine has given most of us as though the licence to defy the health protocols!

While there is no reason to push the panic button over the recently observed rise in the infection rate, there is still hardly any reason to take the development lightly, either. It is still anybody's guess if it is the old strain of the pandemic active in this part of the world, or it is a new variant. In either case, it is worrying. How devastating the Covid-19 can be we know from the West. The way they are fighting the scourge by shutting down the economy, in some cases imposing even curfews, we cannot simply afford. Month after month they have kept their economies practically dysfunctional. But at the same time, they are feeding their people confined to their homes from the government coffer. To be frank, we should be thankful to our luck, or for the believers, to the creator, that despite our being generally lackadaisical about the pandemic, so far the damage to the economy and life could be kept within manageable level. Even so, the government had to spend hundreds of billions of taka to keep the industry running and feeding the vulnerable segments of the people. The economy is yet to recover from the shock of the loose lockdowns last year when the pandemic's infection rate peaked. The country is in no mood to go for such shutdowns again.

To meet the challenge-a second wave of the old strain or maybe a new strain, whatever the case, we have only one option before us. To strictly follow the health guidelines. The government should launch the awareness campaign against the pandemic afresh. Strict compliance of the health rules should be ensured on the road, in the transports, at the offices, both government and private. At the same time, the vaccination drive should continue in full swing. Strict observance of the health protocols is the sole weapon against the pandemic in our hands.  And we will win this war.


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