Combating the Coronavirus
In June, Bangladesh was hit with a second deadly wave of the Coronavirus. The number of infections and deaths due to Covid has increased alarmingly. The new Delta variant is more virulent and wreaking havoc all over Bangladesh. Fortunately vaccination has resumed and the government is importing more vaccines. However, it will take a while till everyone is vaccinated—and during this waiting period they are more exposed to the virus.
For personal safety, people who are unvaccinated should protect themselves by observing the 4 rules recommended by the World Health Organization. The rules are: wear face masks, wash your hands with soap, inhale steam to destroy the virus lodged in the nasal labyrinth, and maintain social distancing. Not much is known yet about the new variant, therefore, it is safer to stick to the 4 rules even if you have been vaccinated!
The 4 rules have been developed and tested in different countries but the best practice has been observed in China. China has a very strict administrative system that is well knitted with the civil society. The citizens are obedient and motivated. Analysis of the Chinese way of treatment reveals that it is delivered from two directions; medicine and motivation. In Bangladesh, motivational activities are not visible and people neglect to follow the 4 rules. It has to be made clear to the population that a Covid victim carries a high risk of death that may be evaded if the 4 rules are followed as a lifestyle choice. But how can people be convinced and motivated to fight this virus together?
To succeed in this battle, the minds of the people must be clear about the danger the virus poses to them and their families. The main weapons are the 4 rules that must be observed by all. People can be motivated through education on the various aspects of Covid; recognition of tell-tale indications of an infected person, the damage it does to human organs leading to death. But how can this knowledge be transferred to the ordinary public?
TV channels are showing the damage and impact of Covid in different talk shows and discussions, these are of good quality and are laden with information but these are not seen by the common people, as many do not have TV. These shows are too sophisticated for an ordinary man to understand. The same message can be shown through animation videos. These videos should be displayed at places that are easily visible, places like crossroads, bus-stations, bazars.
Persuading people verbally is also an effective tool. This is not a difficult task and can be achieved by the elected representatives as they are in routine communication with the people. The elected representatives can convince them of ways to save their own lives from Covid-19 by observing the 4 rules. The representatives should organise and reach out to people and convince them of the looming danger. Our nation had fought a glorious Liberation War when all citizens were united. Similarly, every citizen should be aware of the danger and participate in the battle against Covid. Every citizen must become aware of the danger. The citizens of every constituency are in communication with their elected representatives and will listen to them readily. The elected representatives are: the members of the Parliament, upazila chairman, union council chairman and the ward member. The most important person in the team is the ward member because he is the only one in the channel of authority in the administration who is in direct communication with the people. How do we see the team working with the people in the field?
The team will engage the people in the villages, in the towns and the island and hills. The team will also have paramedics who are posted at upazila and union level, they know the local people and can motivate them. The ward member must visit each homestead (Bari) and speak to each head of the household and have maximum numbers attending his talks.
A training video should be made for the team, showing the standard procedure on how to deliver the speech and have discussions with the people, and answer any question asked by the people. The team should meet at the DCs office for planning and execution of the task with the police the paramilitary and military representatives in attendance. The team should meet as often as the team leader wants.
For an operation like this to be successful, it is essential to maintain momentum and direction, for that additional human resources are needed. Fortunately, we have such resources.
The retired members of the public service, police service and the armed forces who receive pension can also be mobilised to motivate the citizens. It is suggested that the retired citizens be motivated to talk over the telephone with respected senior citizens in his village or bari and request them to ensure and enforce strict compliance of the 4 rules.
Students of primary and high schools can also be educated in the ways to fight the virus.
Our people regularly meet violent natural disasters with courage and rise like a phoenix from the ashes. They fought unitedly for freedom with very little resources and against a formidable enemy and came out victorious. There is no reason why we should not be able defeat the Coronavirus if we stand together.
Sharif Uddin Ahmed is a retired Brigadier General.