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7 June, 2020 09:53:15 PM / LAST MODIFIED: 7 June, 2020 10:48:12 PM

Musings on the pandemic: Lessons learnt from Covid-19

Three months into the pandemic, the situation in Bangladesh is caught by a pandemonium. Handling of the pandemic through a largely ‘trial and error’ method brings practically no results.
Shamim A. Zahedy
Musings on the pandemic: Lessons learnt from Covid-19

As humans away, other creatures have appeared: “When humans are staying home in fear of contacting the coronavirus, other creatures of Mother Nature have staged a comeback to the world’s longest sea beach at Cox’s Bazar. ... Along with colourful marine creatures, other brackish species, including snails and oysters, have also made their trails on the wet beach along the sea line, once frequented by humans. Even dolphins, which could hardly be seen earlier, are now playing.”
The coronavirus pandemic is making Earth vibrate less: “Around the world, seismologists are observing a lot less ambient seismic noise -- meaning, the vibrations generated by cars, trains, buses and people going about their daily lives. And in the absence of that noise, Earth's upper crust is moving just a little less. … Thomas Lecocq, a geologist and seismologist at the Royal Observatory in Belgium, first pointed out this phenomenon in Brussels.”
The news stories published simultaneously on 3 April 2020 by The Independent, Bangladesh and CNN, US speak volume about the environmental impact of novel coronavirus-induced lockdown across the globe from the East to the West.   
Pestilences and pandemics are not new phenomena to humanity from the Plague of Athens (429-426 BCE) to Antonine Plague (165- 180/190 CE) in the ancient era and from Black Death (1347-1351 CE) to The Great Plague of London (1665-1666 CE) in the middle age. The humanity also overcame the contagions from the recent time’s Spanish Flu (1918 CE) to modern day’s HIV/AIDS (1981) and SARS (2003).

Nevertheless, this novel coronavirus is highly contagious and grave against the backdrop of rapid globalization over the past five decades. The world is truly a village now, meaning a difficulty in one nation is discomfort to another nation.

If one nation spews carbon dioxide, it pollutes all others. A disease in a country will surely spread to others: no one is safe if neighbours are unsafe. That should be biggest lesson the world leaders should now learn. 
It is time to save the Mother Nature in unison only to save everyone and the posterity.

Rightly, United Nations chief, Antonio Guterres, says the coronavirus pandemic should serve as a "wake-up call" to the world which must be more united in responding to the crisis.
Guterres also says the crisis is an opportunity to rebuild a better world -- but doubted whether countries are up to it.

Despite great scientific and technological advances in recent decades, a virus had "brought us to our knees", the UN chief recently told the World Health Organization's (WHO) World Health Assembly.

“Pandemic had exposed the frailties not just in health systems but in international institutions, tackling the climate crisis, cyber-security and nuclear disarmament.”

Without a doubt, more the world comprehend the idea to fight together the more the world will get benefitted: the humanity now needs to work out on clean energy, inclusivity and equality for a better future.

While the pandemic-induced lockdown is taking toll on economy and development, it is also set to contribute to the healing of the Earth. Human-made efforts are already paying dividends.

Yes, the ozone layer is healing, say media reports. The Independent, UK newspaper, in its 27 March 2020 issue, said a scientific paper, published in Nature, heralds a rare success in the reversal of environmental damage and shows that orchestrated global action can make a difference.
In the past, human use of substances – chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – caused such life-threatening damage to the ozone layer that in 1987, an international treaty called the “Montreal Protocol” was adopted to ban them, added the paper.

The ozone layer lies in the earth's “stratosphere at an altitude of about 10 km containing a high concentration of ozone, which absorbs most of the ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth from the sun”.
That  the ‘conscious’ and ‘consensus’ decision to impose Covid-19 like global lockdown for a limited period is not possible perhaps again in the new normal era, humans must put their heads together to find a solution to save ecology, biodiversity and the environment over all.

To speak of economy, what scores have the humans made despite incredible development in the fields of economy and science especially over the last five decades? It is all futile given the fact that “10 percent of the world’s population or 734 million people live on less than $1.90 a day”, and additional number of “40 million to 60 million people may fall into extreme poverty (under $1.90/day) in 2020 as a result of COVID-19”.

UNICEF says some 22,000 children under five still die each day because of poverty. What is the significance of development of medical science? The world’s 2,153 billionaires have more wealth than the 4.6 billion people, who make up 60 percent of the world’s population, according to Oxfam. Is it development?

Global military expenditure sees largest annual increase in a decade, reaching $1.917 trillion in 2019, estimates Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), saying that the five largest spenders in 2019, which accounts for 62 percent of expenditure, are the United States, China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia.
It is said just 10 percent of world military spending could drive away poverty. But, weapons beget ill-gotten wealth like money begets money. Can money only save lives?

Learn a lesson from the novel coronavirus that has brought the most powerful nation, the largest economy in the world, the US, to its knee, like the Minneapolis policeman, Derek Michael Chauvin, who knelt George Perry Floyd, the unarmed black American, to death.
As of June 06, 2020 the Covid-19 killed 111,487 people and affected 1,969,734 in the US.

Closer to home, handling of the pandemic through a largely ‘trial and error’ method brings practically no results. The lack of coordination and consistency in decisions proves to be fatal.
The big opportunity was lost when in mid March some Bangladeshis from Italy, the then hotspot of coronavirus, and other European countries were released from institutional quarantine camps and sent to ‘home quarantine’, a foreign concept to many.

A failure to hit the rod when it was hot: a failure to put a few thousands of people on institutional quarantine now costs dearly. 
The coronavirus in Bangladesh, in fact, has come from Europe, says the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (BCSIR) after decoding the genome sequences of coronavirus samples collected from three locals.

On the economy front, the Bangladesh government thus far has to announce 19 stimulus packages involving Tk 1.03 trillion (US$ 12.13 billion), which is 3.7 percent of total GDP.
Right from the beginning things were made difficult when WHO called for test, test and test, Bangladesh’s IEDCR (Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research) made it a ‘rocket science’. The IEDCR director was seen in briefings, telling journalists that it was a complex test, training was needed for people involved, so tests had to be done only by the institute and so on and so forth.

Then a series of decisions were taken and a series of reversals were made repeatedly, frequently following the first confirmed virus case on 8 March 2020 like a barking dog that seldom bites.
On May 21 people, who remained indoors to stem novel coronavirus outbreak since March 26, were allowed to use personal cars and microbuses to leave Dhaka for Eid-ul-Fitr holiday.

When garment factories reopened on April 26, mosques on May 7 and shopping malls on May 10, experts vented concern of possible virus spread, terming the steps suicidal.
Earlier in the first week of April when readymade garment factory workers streamed towards Dhaka as factories were set to reopen, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said National Committee to Curb Coronavirus’ Spread Committee, which he himself heads, was not consulted about textile factories’ operation resumption.

Overall, the weak enforcement of announced general holiday, not lockdown, has made the whole exercise of staying home from March 26 to May 30, 2020 worthless, pointless. 
But there had been a glaring example from neighbouring Sri Lanka that had enforced curfew in island nation, which paid a dividend: as of 6 June 2020, there were 1,814 coronavirus cases and 11 deaths.

Moving to the medical treatment, even almost three months into the pandemic, the situation is caught by a pandemonium. There are long queues in front of medical facilities for a mere Covid-19 test; commoners face harassment when they go for treatments both at private and public hospitals; private hospitals charge exorbitantly; non-Covid-19 patients receive almost no treatment; and the list does not end here.    
Action is required, common sense not rocket science is wanted. What lessons has Bangladesh learnt?

The writer is the Executive Editor of The Independent. E-Mail: [email protected]


More Articles by Shamim A. Zahedy:

George Floyd and beyond (03-06-2020)

Protect purity of every type of media (30-05-2020)

Disturbing disregard for social distancing (24-05-2020)

Interoperability is missing in business (23-05-2020)

“Education divide” in Bangladesh (21-05-2020)

Time to seek alternative financing for news media? (15-05-2020)

Govt needs to be techie to reach out to people in need of aid (09-05-2020)

Handcuffs for journalists (06-05-2020)

New business model required for news media in the post-virus era (03-05-2020)

An apology for print newspapers (03-04-2020)

Thank you, readers (26-03-2020)

A tribute: O Captain! My Captain! (06-03-2020)

Blockchain could be the answer to fair voting in Bangladesh (31-01-2020)

When the lawmakers brazenly call for extrajudicial killing (16-01-2020)

Democracy begins at the party level (29-05-2019)




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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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