The entire country is now at risk
With the highest number of deaths (15) in 24 hours on April 17, public health experts have warned that the country is heading towards the fourth stage of coronavirus transmission when the virus spreads quickly. The government has declared that the entire country is at risk with the virus spreading to at least 40 districts of the country. There is no doubt that we have been very late in our response to the pandemic despite seeing it all being played out in developed countries and going through stages of denial, improper handling of quarantine measures for returnees from epicentres abroad, miscommunication with the public (by declaring a holiday instead of lockdown), allowing people to go the villages, not being able to stop hordes of garment workers coming back to the city to get their dues, not conducting adequate testing, not preparing the hospitals and staff—the list goes on. These have been critical mistakes with critical consequences. But now that we are at this stage where infection rates are increasing, along with casualties, we must take drastic measures to prevent the spread as much as possible.
Although testing has increased, experts say that it is still too low to give the real picture. We therefore must have more testing, especially of those individuals showing symptoms. Unless we isolate Covid-19 patients and treat them, the infection will spread very rapidly. Contact tracing and testing must therefore be ramped up.
Along with proper testing (to avoid false results), hospital capacity and resources have to be significantly enhanced. Doctors and healthcare workers must be given the proper protective gear and safety protocol facilities. Already, a doctor has died and many other healthcare workers are infected. These frontline workers must be given all the support they need so that they can do their job without endangering themselves and their families. The government has announced that certain hotels have been designated to accommodate doctors and other health professionals, but this has not been implemented yet due to lack of coordination. Unless these issues are resolved, the already fragile healthcare system will completely collapse.
Despite the government announced lockdowns for the entire country, there are still places where people are not maintaining social distancing. The reality of no work and no pay is forcing many to break the lockdown as the fear of starvation far outweighs the fear of coronavirus. In order for the lockdowns to be successful, the government must make sure that the food and financial relief it has initiated through rescue packages must reach all low income and vulnerable groups. Meanwhile, vigorous hygiene awareness campaigns must continue.