The COVID-19 brings unprecedented challenges for the densely populated Bangladesh, which warrant collective effort on all fronts
Emergence, symptoms and spread of corona
COVID-19 outbreak was first witnessed in December in Wuhan, Hubei, China. Till now more than 3.7 million peoples have been affected and over 2.5 lacs people have died.
Symptoms of coronavirus infection are similar to those of SARS-Cov-2, which includes fever, dry cough, and sore throat.
In some cases, abdominal pain, and dizziness may also occur. Infection occurs mainly through sneezing, coughing and through contact with an infected person.
Most people are asymptomatic. Even if the symptoms are expressed, they are insignificant, which people often tend to ignore.
As a result, the affected person will unknowingly continue carrying out their daily activities as usual. Apart from this, people may also be infected by fecal and oral transmission.
What makes this virus particularly dangerous is it's highly contagious nature.
Bangladesh is an exceptionally densely populated country
The population of Bangladesh is more than 170 million. In terms of population, Bangladesh is the eighth most populous country in the world, which accounts for 2.1% of the world's population.
Till the end of March, Bangladesh had a low number of Covid-19 patients, but in April it increased rapidly. Community transmission of Covid-19 all over the country was behind this sharp increase.
As a microbiologist, I believe that we can overcome this, although the fear that this will not reappear as an epidemic cannot be dispelled. Therefore, we have to be careful about the coming months.
Challenges in tackling Covid-19
The global challenge now is to take the necessary steps to minimize the number of Covid-19 cases and t deaths, as well as to avoid an economic downturn.
World Bank and other economic organizations fear that 50 crore people will face economic hardship. The World Trade Organization says the COVID-19 crisis will reduce trade by 13 percent to 23 percent this year.
The impact will cause people to lose their jobs. A large number of Bangladeshi workers are likely to be laid off and many of them will be forced to return from foreign countries.
According to World Health Organization, COVID-19 can be chronic. This calls for the economic and social security of citizens to be ensured in this crisis.
Experts believe that government food aid needs to be provided to an estimated 1.5 crore people in Bangladesh over the next six months.
Experts say additional currency can be printed to mobilize liquidity in the near future.
Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has announced approximately Tk 1ne ac crore as financial incentives to address the economic downturn, especially for the RMG, industrial and agricultural sectors.
However, according to experts, proper planning and transparency needs to be ensured for impartial and judicious disbursement of the incentive.
One of the driving forces of our lives is the economy. Not only the marginalized or the low-income population, but also the middle-classes, especially the lower-middle class, have faced financial problems at this time.
The government, the administration and the upper-class of the society have to work collectively to face this challenge. Honourable PM is emphasizing on the life and livelihood of the marginalized people.
In addition, the upper-class have played a substantial role in the immediate crisis by coming forward to help in the relief efforts.
Community transmission will create a drastic impact
The media, government have periodically highlighted the horrors of community transmission to the public through press briefings. However, the public have not been vigilant regardless.
People in Bangladesh are not maintaining lockdown and staying at house, suffering from depression and apathy caused by the prolonged lockdown. The rate of infection is increasing, as a result
We need to take creative measures to prevent this from happening. Vietnam has set a good example in this regard
We need to set a goal to reduce the rate of community transmission. The maximum acceptable daily growth rate needs to be determined in order to stabilize the infectious index.
Proper modelling should also be used to predict Covid-19 infections. More attention needs to be paid to identify those who are asymptomatic to control the spread.
Public gatherings need to be dismantled. Adequate oxygen therapy, mechanical ventilation and ICUs for critically ill patients should be arranged throughout the country, not just in Dhaka. The health care coverage needs to be decentralized
A plan to reduce the number of people infected with Covid-19 is urgent
One of the most challenging things about coronavirus is the uncertainty, not knowing who has the infection or when it's safe to return to normal life. There is no alternative to reducing the number of infections.
If this continues, the coming days will bring even worse outcomes, a matter of concern for public health. Continuous and accurate testing is required to detect and contain Covid-19.
Good quality testing can help provide us with certainty. The government is trying to scale up our testing levels.
Coronavirus research should be started in Bangladesh
The virus has undergone 1,402 mutations, changing the protein and making it even more contagious and harmful. With so many mutations, early commentary on the true nature of coronavirus infection is not helpful.
According to PNAS's recent article, there are three main variants of the novel corona virus - A, B, C - based on differences in their amino acids. Type B is available in East Asian countries. Type A and C are found in Europe and America.
We still don't know which strain is prevalent in Bangladesh. It is imperative that we know because otherwise vaccines imported from other countries may not work for us.
Research in this regard should to be initiated in Bangladesh. Research on genome sequencing, immunity, vaccines should also be done.
While we have skilled and qualified researchers, Bangladesh lacks quality laboratories. With an emphasis on research, especially biological research, world leaders now need to outline what to do next.
Formation of specialized task force
We are noticing that the government has taken various steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19. By taking prompt actions to address the gaps, we can hope for great results.
For this, we can form a task force consisting of specialized and skilled personnel. Physicians, as well as microbiologists, virologists, biochemist, molecular biologists, and researchers in various disciplines need to be involved in dealing with this virus.
To reduce community transmission, we need to think more about maintaining hygiene, isolation, social distancing and more stringent lockdown if necessary.
This cautious mindset and corresponding implementation must continue until an effective drug or vaccine is discovered.
COVID-19 is a pandemic of mass panic. Therefore, to fight against coronavirus, we need wisdom, not worry.
As luck would have it, the mortality rate due to corona is found to be low. We are in the right path, this darkness will pass and sun will shine again.
The writer is a Professor at the Department of Microbiology, Jahangirnagar University and Treasurer, Pabna University of Science and Technology