The Covid-19 outbreak has exposed the ineffectiveness of the country's healthcare system which needs reforms, experts said at a discussion yesterday.
By imposing liability on the people for not maintaining health safety rules, the government has attempted to avoid its responsibility, they said at the online discussion.
The event titled "Health Rights During Corona" was organised by Committee for the Protection of Fundamental Rights.
Speaking at the discussion, eminent jurist Shahdeen Malik said, "Coronavirus has shown us how bad is the condition of our healthcare system. Although there is a huge lacking [in the system], the government is trying."
Criticising the role of the Awami League as the ruling party, he said, "If this health minister [Zahid Maleque] is the fittest health minister, then it proves that Awami League as a party is in a very bad situation."
Presenting the keynote, Prof Asif Nazrul of Dhaka University analysed the trend of the Covid-19 situation, the government's response to it and the recent scams centring the pandemic.
"Imposing fees for coronavirus testing and hiking fares of public transport have put a heavy burden on the poor people. Also, the government has shifted the burden of infection prevention to the general people by avoiding institutional quarantine," said the DU teacher.
He said the overall Covid-19 situation in the country has deteriorated due to inadequate testing and treatment, lack of clarity of information on the pandemic situation, non-coordination, corruption, and politicisation. The Covid-19 patients not getting proper treatment is a gross violation of their human rights, he observed.
About the government data on Covid-19, Nazrul said, "The death figure is questionable. There is a lack of transparency."
He said the actual number of deaths from Covid-19 is around twice the official figure. Referring to a recent report by Centre for Genocide Studies, he said a total of 1,984 people died after showing Covid-19 symptoms till August 1.
Till yesterday, the official death toll was 3,365.
Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of Transparency International Bangladesh, said, "The health minister has said they are doing well [in tackling Covid-19]. As a result, the government officials are hiding information because they have to show that the situation is good."
He said decisions taken based on wrong information fail.
Shujon Secretary Baduil Alam Majumdar said, "The collapse of the country's health care sector is just a tip of the iceberg. In fact, our ruling system has collapsed."
He said the situation has deteriorated in all sectors due to politicisation of all (government) organisations.
Supreme Court lawyer Barrister Sara Hossain said there is a relationship between getting healthcare services and enjoying freedom of speech and right to information.
"Arbitrary arrests, censorship of the press and the people's opinion, threats to life, livelihoods and reputation are the tools being used by the state. Some political leaders are using these tools to silence and suppress the people even in the Covid-19 situation," Sara said.
Speakers also stressed on decentralising and reforming the country's healthcare system.
"Serving a population of 18 crore with healthcare is not possible without decentralising the healthcare system," said Syeda Rizwana Hasan, executive director of Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association.
She also stressed the need for setting up a "health commission" which would work for reformation of the health sector.
"Providing healthcare services cannot be a business… Without reformation, the situation will not change and we need to set up a commission to make it happen," Shahdeen Malik said.
Taufiq Joarder of Public Health Foundation and some rights activists also took part in the discussion.