As Bangladesh entered the dangerous community transmission stage – an epidemic of fear and hatred has also been surging in the country. Not just in Bangladesh, Covid-19 positive patients across the world have reportedly suffered social stigma – hatred, xenophobia and denial of treatment
Soon after the decision was made by the government that bodies of the patients who died from Covid-19 will be buried at Khilgaon-Taltola graveyard, the locals protested and put up a notice at the entrance gate asking the government to not bury the bodies there and to instead find some 'safer' place outside of Dhaka.
The decision was made on March 21, when the second victim of covid-19 died in Mirpur. No burial has taken place at the graveyard yet.
Earlier, a female doctor working at Dhaka Medical College received an ultimatum from her neighbouring apartment owners in Old Dhaka to leave the apartment or the job – otherwise, they threatened to throw her out of the building.
The apartment owners also put up a notice beside the building elevator that reads, "Doctors and nurses are prohibited from using the elevator," as reported by Medivoice, an online portal run by some dedicated health professionals.
Just a few days ago, in the face of a massive public protests, the government had to cancel its plans to set up a quarantine centre in Uttara's Diabari.
The government made an arrangement with Regent Hospital in Uttara to treat coronavirus patients. On March 22, in fear of catching the virus, Uttara residents laid siege to the hospital; however, the hospital will still take in coronavirus patients as per their agreement.
Except for a few dedicated public hospitals, the majority of the hospitals are rejecting patients with flu, cough, sneeze, breathing problems, and other symptoms related to Covid-19. Doctors and other health professionals are going on leaves even though the government has cancelled their leaves.
Everyone is scared of catching the virus and the slow response from authorities, hospitals and the country's only testing lab Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) are spiking the fear.
IEDCR decides on testing suspected patients on the basis of recent travel history. IEDCR's negligence towards the second deceased person and hospitals' refusal to admit him has triggered fear and panic among the masses.
As Bangladesh entered the dangerous community transmission stage – an epidemic of fear and hatred has also been surging in the country.
Not just in Bangladesh, Covid-19 positive patients across the world have reportedly suffered social stigma – hatred, xenophobia and denial of treatment.
Delhi's first Covid-19 patient has been bombarded with hate messages even after a week of his recovery. His photographs and phone numbers went viral on the social media when he tested positive for the coronavirus.
"It was sad to see my photograph and telephone number being spread on social media. I started receiving phone calls and hate messages from unknown numbers while I was admitted in the hospital. I was made into a criminal," he said to the News 18.
"I was made to feel as if I went to Italy solely for the purpose of contracting this illness," he added.
The pandemic virus has stirred up racism, resentment and division in the US and Europe since it hit China hard last year.
A Korean man was stabbed in Montreal, Canada earlier this month as a result of racial hatred over coronavirus.
As the elderly are more vulnerable to the virus, a generational-conflict has also begun. Younger population in the US labels the virus as 'Boomer remover." American President Trump dubbed the virus as 'Chinese virus' and 'Kung flu' when the outbreak hit the US.
With this, the country saw a surge in hate crimes against the Asian-Americans. To protect, the community, Trump has changed his statement on March 23. He now claims the Asian-Americans are not at fault of spreading the virus rather all of them are working in union and closely to combat the virus.
An initiative has been taken by some group of organisations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and California to combat the hate crimes. They launched an online response form to collect and track incidents of hate crime against Covid-19 patients. The urgent cases will be reported to the police, as reported by The Sacramento Bee.
Also, San Diego prosecutors from the city, state and federal levels joined a movement to stop hate crime against the Asian-Americans.
We also need to combat hatred, fear and stigmatization in Bangladesh. Burial and treatment are basic human rights and Covid-19 patients are not criminals. They cannot be left to die and their rights to burial must be protected. Besides raising awareness about public health issues such as social distancing and the consequences of Covid-19, we have to ensure safety, protection and treatment for the affected patients as well.
The deadly coronavirus has already spread to 194 countries and affected 422,915 people worldwide so far, till March 25. It has infected 39 people and killed five in Bangladesh.