An example is the decision to stop public transport in March 2020. Restrictions were imposed on March 26. At that time the transition was going from cluster to community level. Being able to make decisions in advance has saved Bangladesh from the tsunami of infection. In the case of Italy or the United States, delays in decision making have not prevented the spread of the disease.
Kovid infection has been delayed in the country due to scientific decision making. In this, as we have learned from the experience of others, we have also got time to prepare the people or get used to the people. We have learned from the experience of other countries that the wave of infection has come late. But we had a deficit from the beginning, that is public relations. The World Health Organization is directing that in this case a kind of message should be brought before the people. The question is, will it interfere with freedom of expression? But such expressions must be suspended during the epidemic. We have seen all kinds of misinformation about the Kovid epidemic in the media and social media. Now I can see any wrong information about vaccination. Such misinformation makes epidemic control difficult.
I would say that the success of Bangladesh in controlling Kovid is of medium level. Two types of countries have done well in controlling the epidemic. First, those who have set policy have put human life at the centre, not economic activity. Second, countries that already have vital healthcare infrastructure strong from the grassroots level. An independent panel of the World Health Organization (WHO) recently conducted a neutral study on how successful a country is in tackling covid. In preparation for the Covid match, Bangladesh’s score was 5.5 out of 10. The United States points 9.5. Depending on the population as a whole, 1.5 points out of 10 in the United States. Bangladesh’s position there is 5.5. It is clear from this study that resources are not everything in controlling the epidemic, policy is the key.
Bangladesh’s healthcare infrastructure needs to be streamlined to deal with future epidemics by utilizing the experience of the Kovid epidemic. Primary health care must be universal and free. All other development plans need to be taken with healthcare at the centre. Kovid has taught us that if public health is not good, neither the economy nor education can be maintained. There is a need to increase medical facilities in the community level healthcare centres in Bangladesh.
Essential health care must be ensured. In this case, the primary health care infrastructure in urban areas is absolutely inadequate like the darkness under the lamp. Ward based community health centres should be set up in Dhaka and other cities on an urgent basis.
Hopefully, in the new year, with the joint efforts of all, we will be able to say goodbye to the Kovid epidemic. However, in this case, besides building the public health structure, it is necessary to ensure the availability and equality of vaccines. There must be a global initiative to ensure vaccine availability and equality. If vaccinations cannot be guaranteed to large sections of the population in all regions of the world, then even seemingly safe countries are not safe.
Mushtaq Hossain is an advisor to the Government of the Institute of Pathology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) and a Public Health Specialist.