We seem to have overcome our initial fear of Covid-19 and are now returning back to the old normal. Uncertainty has been reduced or should I say, 'absorbed', even though the infection rate remains high – in fact one of the highest in the world. This is because of a low death rate along with the experience of many who suffered a light or moderate infection. There is no denying the fact that Covid-19 management too has passed its panic mode and has settled down to a more relaxed, more professional, more leisurely style . In the meantime, many 'treatments' have bloomed, and in particular, Dr. Alam's treatment has gained huge traction. Thus, as far as Covid is concerned, DIY or do-it-yourself has become the new mantra. Good or bad, the pressure on (poor) health services have declined, and patients are coming into facilities, it seems, only as a last resort (literally so in many cases). Thus, we continue to hear of casualties (was very sorry to hear of the passing of Ziauddin Tarek Ali today – RIP Tarek Bhai) but at the same time, restaurants are opening up, traffic jams have thickened, and the economy appears to be poised for a comeback.
But the crisis persists. With infection rates still high, many still in denial or unable to remain under lockdown for economic reasons, a dual reality prevails amidst a quiet uncertainty. Caution is increasingly being thrown to the wind – people are not wearing masks as regularly and social distancing remains a far cry. At this crucial juncture, it is imperative that we reinforce health-safety messages, create public pressure and public opinion, and restore a sense of urgency and discipline in the way we handle the crisis. For too long, we have been careless, indeed cavalier in our attitude to a unprecedented national crisis. All ritualistic gatherings that serve little or no real purpose should be cancelled or postponed. If you have to hold meetings regularly at work or at play, try to do so in open spaces, or alternatively, take the trouble of investing in hepa air-filters for meeting rooms and other high-traffic zones. We have to protect ourselves, our neighbourhoods, our families, our healthworkers, our policemen and all frontline heroes. Also in danger are those over 60 – which basically means the entire leadership and many senior managers and the senior-citizenry of the country. We have already lost far too many of them. If we want to save the rest, all of us need to behave.
As we head for our V-shaped recovery, we have to remember that this requires carefully factoring in public health measures without which, I am afraid, our 'victory' will be short-lived. The virus is alive and kicking; its not gone nor has its powers evaporated. In fact, it has the power to re-emerge with force. In the meantime, I will be praying for a better team to take charge of our public health woes.
The author is the Director General of the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS)