With people lowering their guard against Covid-19 during the Eid celebrations, health officials and experts fear that Bangladesh may face a grimmer health crisis than before. The relaxation of lockdown, public disregard for social distancing and uncertainty over vaccinations has made the situation more volatile at a time when all four Covid-19 variants of global concern, including the one devastating India, have made their way into Bangladesh.
Despite seemingly getting a head start, Bangladesh's vaccination programme has all but stalled, as only two percent of the country's population have so far received the double-dose of AstraZeneca vaccine while less than four percent got the first shot. In the meantime, at least 10,645,697 mobile phone subscribers travelled out of Dhaka between May 4 and May 15, many of whom are now returning to the capital. In spite of the government ban on long distance buses, people have resorted to different means to make their way into the capital without following any of the health guidelines, putting themselves and others at serious risk. This great movement of people from one end of the country to another and back could potentially provide the perfect opportunity for the virus to spread rapidly.
Amid the ongoing uncertainty over vaccines, health experts have warned that unless people strictly follow health guidelines, including the wearing of masks, Bangladesh could get into a crisis situation like the one we are witnessing in India and Nepal. Unfortunately, as this newspaper reported on Monday, most people seen travelling across the country have been ignoring their advice and the government's enforcement of the guidelines has also been non-existent during the Eid holidays.
As all of this has created the perfect environment for the virus to spread, the government should pre-emptively take the necessary precautions now, rather than repeat the same mistakes that were made by India. That includes ensuring uninterrupted oxygen supply at every district hospital and arranging oxygen generators at all hospitals in cities as soon as possible. Now is the time for the government to strictly enforce the health guidelines, as failure to do so may result in catastrophic consequences.