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Let’s prepare; right now…

Imagine that a few of Bangladeshi workers, infected with coronavirus, manage to filter through our ports and airports and mingle in with an ocean of 170 million people. Since the virus is airborne, those infected persons would surely contaminate many.
From a few persons to many; from many to millions. That’s how we have observed it spreading in many countries.
The inflow of the virus, perhaps, may not be very far from our country, as we have an enormous number of Bangladeshis working in various countries across the world, especially in the Middle East. Some people in countries such as the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait have been infected and, given the trend over the last few weeks, it’s likely to spread even beyond those countries.
Given the population density of Bangladesh, the virus may have fertile carriers in millions in this country. Almost all Bangladeshis have a very poor sense of hygiene; almost of us have a habit of spitting all around without any reason.
Even if you’re staying away from any human contact, you’re not out of danger; it could come to you.
If we identify a few persons, say, in our capital city Dhaka, or in Chittagong, could you imagine what would happen? The panic among citizens would spread like wildfire. Everyone would rush to the ATM booths and the bank branches to withdraw money, run to the shops for storing food, hospitals would be full of people who may have just a normal cold or fever, no physicians at the hospitals and clinics, no vehicle for commuting on the streets.
As far as our health care domain is concerned, our hospitals across the country don’t have the testing kits for identifying coronavirus patients. We also don’t know what kind of treatment the infected people should be given.
Where are we going to house the infected people? Who would agree to look after them? Would they be just left alone to, God forbid, pass away? What would we do with the bodies when they pass away?
Imagine Dhaka has come to a standstill; it has become a ghost city. Some will of course run out of the city looking for a safer place, although some are of the opinion that we won’t be able to keep Bangladeshis locked at home, they would come out any how and go to work or business. But if some of the outbound persons are also infected, they would be enough to spread the virus outside Dhaka.
It may not take very long for the virus to swallow this tiny country.
On the financial front of Bangladesh, supplies in the market have already started dwindling and prices of foreign goods have already spiralled. Local businesspeople, as well as business organizations, have said the supplies of raw materials have already declined, and the exporters of manufacturing items may not be able to meet the production deadline.
This is the time for incurring great losses.
Imagine what would happen to the service sector such as banks, telecom companies, insurance companies, hotels and others. Take a bank, for example. When the virus hits Bangladesh, most of the human resources would confine themselves in their homes; they won’t come to the workplace for serving their customers.
But people would rush to the banks for cash, as there may be a mad rush to store food at our homes. No matter what, they have to serve their customers anyhow. But how are they going to do so? How ready are they? How ready are other sectors?
Take the schools and coaching centres, for another example. These may be the hotspots from where the children might acquire the contamination. Are we going to withhold all the board exams?
What are we going to do? We don’t seem to have any plan right at the moment.
Considering everything and any possible contamination, there’s an urgent need to monitor our borders and ports. We may think of issuing alerts at the airports, land ports, and along the border. A slightest error may lead to a pan-Bangladesh epidemic.
We must, right now, set up quarantine centres in the all the district towns.
An inter-ministerial task force along with the armed forces should be formed right now to combat the impending situation.
The Health Ministry should create a network of health workers, such as nurses and physicians, combining all the clinics and hospitals at the upazila level. We must ensure that we have preparedness to handle such patients.
The government must also ensure that the hospitals and clinics don’t overcharge the patients in terms of fees.
We must start a massive awareness campaign without any delay.
Bangladesh is a tiny country with a massive population. People-to-people contact here is too common. We may not be able to manage what China could do. We don’t have that skill-set to prevent the outbreak. Our challenge is greater than any other country.
Let’s prepare.
Right now.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.

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