One year into the detection of the first cases of coronavirus in the country, Health Minister Zahid Maleque thinks the tumultuous year of the pandemic exposed some of the weaknesses in the healthcare services.
"There have been inherent weaknesses in the healthcare facilities for a long time. That's why some crises arose at the initial stages. But we found out the loopholes quickly and acted promptly to resolve the issues," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
At the beginning of the pandemic, there were shortages of medical equipment and people to run the system, but prompt decisions made by the government helped contain the spread of the outbreak, he added.
"Initially, there were crises of beds, testing facilities, and PPE. There were other issues too. But it is not only Bangladesh that had these problems. In fact, the whole world faced these crises. But we failed to properly convey those messages to the people," Zahid said.
"We need to boost our efficiency and capability in tackling pandemic-like situations. The hospitals' capacities should be increased. In a pandemic-like situation, time is important and every minute matters."
Going through the pandemic, the health care providers have learnt how to tackle demanding situations, promptly ensure treatment, and mobilise resources.
"A pandemic has many dimensions. So the preparation should be multidimensional as well. On one hand, we have to keep hospital beds ready and ensure treatment. On the other hand, we have to make people aware of the pandemic. We have to do these things simultaneously and on time."
Teamwork is the key to successful tackling of a pandemic, he said.
"The approach should be coordinated. Tackling a pandemic is not the task of the health ministry alone. It requires assistance from different ministries. There is no alternative to teamwork."
Research in the field should be vigorous and knowledge about the pandemic should be constantly updated, he added.
"Expert opinions from different sectors inside and outside the country need to be accommodated. There are no set rules of tackling such situations. Strategies should be adjusted from time to time depending on the situation."
Maleque said the biggest failure of the ministry was that it failed to send the messages of Covid-19 treatment convincingly to the people and media.
Rather than pointing fingers, he said he welcomed criticism, because the criticisms helped them take actions promptly.
"People have to understand that Bangladesh is not the USA or Europe. You cannot expect facilities like the USA and Europe in Bangladesh. Our socio-economic condition is not like those countries."
The minister said the biggest challenge now is to bring in the vaccines on time and inoculate people.
The Bangladesh government thinks in advance and that's why it got hold of the vaccine on time while many other countries were struggling to secure the vaccine shots, he said.
"Since we are not the manufacturers, we have to rely on others. The government alone cannot do everything, so the private entities should be engaged. People have to come forward and help the government wipe out Covid-19 from the country."