POST TIME: 18 March, 2020 12:15:26 PM
Prevention and precaution can save us from COVID-19
As the novel coronavirus known as Covid-19 spreads rapidly across the world, we now face another dimension of the “globalisation and its discontents” argument. A pandemic-induced paranoia could be globalised very quickly
Dr Forqan Uddin Ahmed

Prevention and precaution can save us from COVID-19

The COVID-19 virus is known to spread through tiny droplets ejected by affected people when they sneeze. Anyone contact with such droplets by inhaling the aerosolised air within close proximity of an infected person or shaking hands with such a person or even touching a surface such as chairs, tables or basins, where such tiny droplets might have settled down. In view of this, any crowded place such as classrooms, movie theatres, conferences, train stations, airports, restaurants, places of worship and shopping malls are highly susceptible to becoming purveyors of this nano-organism that can be quite lethal for older people with compromised immune systems and those with underlying medical conditions.
As the novel coronavirus known as Covid-19 spreads rapidly across the world, we now face another dimension of the “globalisation and its discontents” argument. A pandemic-induced paranoia could be globalised very quickly, with a host of haunting repercussions. Cultural norms—such as shaking hands and hugging as a form of greeting—are changing, since they are now considered a conduit for human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus. Over a dozen countries have closed their schools amid the global public health emergency, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation. As a result, over 300 million children around the world are stuck at home. The empty airports in New York, London, and other metropolises around the world have become anti-icons of our world, which is suddenly finding itself unprepared to contain a plague. Holy sites like the Kaaba in Mecca and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem are suddenly empty, provoking many to express discomfort at having to mull over the mysterious intersection of faith and science.

The COVID-19 is not just a public health nightmare; the staggering losses on account of stalled economic activities, rocketing healthcare costs and potential food and drugs shortage can cripple life for months to come.We must take every possible preventive measure personally, at home, at workplace, on roads and in public places. Secondly, it is important to teach everyone good hygiene practices such as not spitting or expectorating everywhere. The third is to diversify supply sources for raw materials, machinery and consumer goods so that we are not dependent on a single country for the bulk of our imports. The fourth is to set up relief funds for the affected poor and a low-cost working capital fund for affected factories and mills. The fifth measure is to impose restrictions on travel from the red zones of coronavirus pandemic and carry out proactive screenings of travellers from high-risk countries. Finally, it is necessary to bring all land, river and sea border outposts under screening and active surveillance, etc.

The global media has focussed on the coronavirus outbreak that has claimed hundreds of lives in China and several other countries. Leading newspapers including the New York Times and Guardian have had lead stories on various measures to prevent the outbreak. Italy was hit hard with the disease recently total deaths 1266 and 14955 infected by the virus. Nearly 10 cities around Milan were locked down. Earlier, the number of infected doubled within a day in South Korea, while the virus spread in Iran, Spain, Germany, France, USA, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark, UK, Japan, Singapore, Lebanon, Israel and many more countries very fast and deaths rises. In the meantime, a Bangladeshi has been infected with the virus in United Arab Emirates while five others have been infected in Singapore. The deadly virus broke out in Hubei province of China, that later became the epicenter of the virus. The air-borne disease was thought to be spread through people. Countries took initiative to restrict in and outgoing of people from China. Yet the virus spread in more than 30 countries. Although the death toll dropped in China, the disease increased in other corners of the world. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has been expressed concern as many patients have been infected by coronavirus though they have never been in China. There has been no case of coronavirus recorded in Bangladesh so far. Even if it is a matter of relief for now, the global spread of the virus is certainly a matter of concern for us. Notably, the virus breaks out fatally in densely populated areas.The New York Times points out that coronavirus outbreaks have occurred in some of the most densely populated areas in Italy. The success of the entire European continent will depend on the country's success in dealing with this crisis. Therefore, Italy has to prove its capacity.

In Bangladesh, the most densely populated country in the world outside of city states such as Singapore, even the street pavements appear crowded all the time; buses, ferries and trains overflow with passengers; and bazaars and "haats" seem to have never-ending human streams where people can feel the breath of others around. In such close encounters—the hallmark of living in densely packed human habitations—coronavirus can literally have a field day every day unless we tackle it with every possible containment measure available at our disposal.

Meanwhile, the government has formed three different kinds of committees – central, division-level and district-level – to monitor the situation all over the country, Health and Family Welfare Zahid Maleque said on Monday. Speaking at a press briefing at the ministry after a meeting of the central committee, the health minister said: “We have prepared 400 beds in different hospitals in each divisional city, 100 beds in district-level and 50 beds in upazila-level healthcare facilities to take care of coronavirus-infected patients. “Doctors and nurses are also being trained [on the Covid-19 treatment], and necessary kits such as masks, hand wash and sterilizers are also being provided by the government,” he added.  Screening of inbound passengers at all airports and seaports in the country will be tightened, the health minister said.

The government has already imported six new screening machines to detect high temperature. Of them, two have been already installed at Dhaka airport, and the rest will be installed at Sylhet airport and Chittagong airport and seaport, he added.  “We also discourage organizing religious or social programs at the moment,” the health minister said. “We have already sent directives to the deputy commissioners not to allow such events.” The government has already restricted the sale of tickets of the upcoming T20I cricket match between Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. He requested everyone not to spread out any kind of rumours, as it is national crisis.

Bangladesh is one of the most populated countries. Coronavirus infection can bring about a major national catastrophe, which we do not want in any way. That is why we have to take maximum precautions and preparation from now. The government is aware of this. People of Bangladesh were advised to avoid travelling abroad. At the airport, arrangements have been made for health check-ups and filling health forms for all the arriving passengers. It is necessary to take all kinds of preparations, including detecting coronavirus in hospitals. Initiatives to raise public awareness must be strengthened. Everyone has to be careful. Anyone showing signs of a coronavirus infection should be taken to a hospital, clinics or health centres immediately. Besides government initiatives, every individual, family and institution must be aware and careful in order to deal with the risk of coronavirus. Special steps need to be taken to raise awareness in the educational institutions and workplaces. Awareness campaigns in the state and private media should stepped up.

The writer is a regular contributor to The Independent