The committees seem to be shooting in the dark while fighting an invisible enemy
Three committees have been formed since March to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak.
The national committee, the public health expert committee and the national technical advisory committee were formed to advise the government on the ongoing coronavirus situation.
One of these committees has only held one meeting so far, while the advice of the others is not being followed properly during policymaking.
The garment factories were reopened without informing the committee of public health experts. The committees are also in the dark about the fact that hotels and restaurants have been reopened.
Although formed to fight Covid-19, these committees have been ignored while making any important decisions during this crisis.
A 31-member high-powered committee was formed on March 1 led by Health Minister Zahid Maleque and comprising of the cabinet secretary, senior secretaries and representatives from the World Health Organization, Asian Development Bank, UNICEF, World Bank and USAID.
The committee, in its scope of work, said it would implement the national plan, review it and give directives to tackle Covid-19.
The government declared general holidays across the country on March 26 to help prevent the spread of Covid-19. The lockdown was supposed to end on April 4 but was extended till April 11, and then till April 14.
As factories closed after the shutdown came into effect, thousands of apparel workers left the capital for their village homes.
But the Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association announced that it will reopen apparel factories from April 5. And many apparel factories decided to resume operations, forcing the workers to travel back to Dhaka.
As regular transport services were suspended, workers walked in groups or used alternative modes of transportation to reach Dhaka, ignoring the mandatory instruction to maintain social distancing.
The apparel makers' decision to resume operations met harsh criticism, forcing them to shut the factories again.
Zahid Maleque said on April 6, "As the health minister I am the head of the national committee. But I am not aware of its decisions regarding coronavirus response."
"I'm unaware of when the factories will be open, or if they will resume operations or not, or how the mosques will arrange prayers congregations.
"I also don't know how and when the roads will be opened or restricted for movement. No issues except the ones related to health services are discussed with me."
Dr ABM Abdullah, personal physician to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and one of the members of the national committee told The Business Standard: "No one talked to us about the administrative issues. Now that the factories are open, they will have to strictly follow hygiene measures. Otherwise, the infections could spread."
"Experts have prepared two types of projections. The first is a conservative scenario, according to which 48,000-50,000 people may be infected and 800-1,000 may die by May 31. The number of cases may reach one lakh by May 31 in the worst-case scenario," Professor Dr Abul Kalam Azad, director general of the health directorate, told an inter-ministerial meeting chaired by Zahid Maleque on April 21.
"Many factors such as lockdown, caution, social distancing and their present status were considered while preparing the projections. We are trying to curb the pandemic and treat patients based on the estimations."
Speakers at the meeting also asked for stepping up lockdown and social distancing in areas where there are more coronavirus infections. But the garment factories in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj were opened on April 26, the same day the minutes of the meeting were published.
The government formed a 17-member national technical advisory committee to tackle the Covid-19 outbreak and contain its community transmission on April 19. The committee, at its second meeting on April 28, tabled eight recommendations.
It said, the opinion of experts needs to be taken into account periodically for relaxation of restrictions, which was put in place as part of social distancing.
Former vice chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and also a member of the technical committee Professor Nazrul Islam told The Business Standard: "The technical committee advises the government on different issues. But the responsibility of implementation lies with the government. If targeted samples can be collected from the areas where garments factories have been reopened, then by May 12 we will be able to get a sense of the impact of reopening apparel factories."
The president of the Bangladesh Medical Association and also a member of the national committee and technical advisory committee, Dr Mustafa Jalal Mohiuddin, told The Business Standard: "In the beginning, the national committee had a meeting soon after its formation. But we do not know what happened after that."