The pandemic that has rattled the whole world has escalated public fear and raised health awareness. Social distancing is now a buzzword and all mechanisms and steps are geared to implement it. But it has also resulted in distancing corona patients or those showing symptoms, along with their families, from the rest of the people
A medical doctor was asked to leave her flat or her job. Flat owners of a building at Bakshibazar in old Dhaka knocked on the door to tell her about their worries as the doctor may carry coronavirus from the hospital she works in.
One of her colleagues narrated the doctor's story in a social media post. The authorities assured her of assistance and requested people not to keep doctors away at a time when medical professionals are needed the most.
Residents in a Rajuk apartment project blocked the authorities' move to set up a temporary quarantine centre for corona-affected or suspected people in an empty building in the premises at Diabari in the city's Uttara.
They held demonstrations throughout the night and surrounded officials for hours until the move was abandoned. A university professor, a known face in the television talk-shows giving views on dos and don'ts on issues ranging from politics to diplomacy, appeared in a video footage expressing his and neighbours' health concerns if corona-patients or suspects are kept in a nearby building.
A private hospital in Uttara area was locked by locals, who did not allow an ambulance carrying a would-be mother inside for emergency healthcare. The hospital was formally attached with a government institution as one of the facilities for corona patients. That scared the locals, who suspected the ambulance was carrying someone with the deadly virus.
People with fever, cold and cough are rushing from one hospital to another and being refused. Viral flu is common during this season of the year. Since the symptoms are like those of the new coronavirus, nobody is going to risk attending them.
Some of these reports appeared in the mainstream media, some individuals shared their shocking experiences in social media. One such video shows a woman, isolated and advised by health ministry's helpline to stay at home for 14 days, describing her symptoms and deteriorating condition. She went to a city hospital to find out that the corona test was not done there. Helpline doctors advised her to continue taking the medicines and wait for them to come to her rescue if necessary. With tears in her eyes, the woman said her throat is swollen and temperature fluctuates. She does not know if the helpline doctors will come in her rescue before things turn worse.
Hospitals reported much fewer outpatients with flu-like symptoms than usual as people chose to hide flu symptoms and move around as usual. Doctors, nurses and support staff members do not have protective dress and they are distancing themselves from patients with cough, fever and breathing problems.
A doctor in Dhaka tested Covid-19 positive as he attended a coronavirus patient (the patient died last week), prompting physicians at private hospitals in Chattogram to stop seeing flu patients.
A coronavirus death has brought eerie silence in Tolarbagh of the capital city's Mirpur area. The locality with about 5,000 residents is 'locked down,' with the main gate remaining shut.
The pandemic that has rattled the whole world has escalated public fear and raised health awareness. Advice for handwashing, using hand sanitiser and wearing masks and gloves is followed almost religiously. Social distancing is now a buzzword and all mechanisms and steps are geared to implement it. But it has also resulted in distancing corona patients or those showing symptoms, along with their families, from the rest of the people.
For more than three months since the new virus started spreading in China, we are hearing that we have enough of everything--- screening and testing kits, beds, ICUs and the know-how. When real time came, we have been caught off-guard with scanners at airport out of order, hospitals without testing kits and doctors without protective dress.
We could test a little over 600 cases in the lone government facility and detect 39 affected by coronavirus. We lost four of them as of March 24 in less than a week since the first death on March 18. We cannot test people with similar symptoms. We do not know for sure how many are affected. We cannot tell them where to go to test for coronavirus and where to seek treatment if tested positive.
We cannot tell doctors, nurses and healthcare providers: 'Here are protective dresses and equipment for you. Stay safe and work fearlessly.' We cannot tell people with cough, cold, fever and breathing difficulty: 'Go there and get tested.' We cannot assure corona patients, suspects and their families: 'Come, we are here to see you.'
What we could do so far is try to distance 'ourselves' from 'them.' We have not tested ourselves, but we believe we are virus-free and we need to keep safe distance from those who are affected or suspected, putting them at home and locking down the area they live or roam in.
Now all arrangements made so far point to a complete lockdown, restricting transports of all sorts and suspending almost all jobs. We may remember 'Juta Abiskar' (Invention of shoe), a satirical poem of Rabindranath Tagore in which he shows how state bureaucracy and machinery were trying to cover the whole earth with leather to protect the king's feet from dust. Then a tanner came up with an instant simple solution: Let's cover the king's feet with leather instead.
We are locking down the whole country in fact, because we could not make some space and facilities for quarantining people with coronavirus symptoms and caring for those affected.