Bangladesh is about to lose its battle against Covid-19 pandemic

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Bangladesh police that they are investigating the matter. (Source: AP)
Bangladesh police that they are investigating the matter. (Source: AP)

-Nirmala Saha

Bangladesh, a small nation in South Asia is on the verge of facing an unimaginable consequence following government’s total failure in taking timely measures in containing the spread of coronavirus within its population of 180 million. Unfortunately, this fastest growing economy in Asia is proceeding towards an imminent fate of death of at least two million people, while millions of people would be affected by Covid-19 within the span of next 2-3 weeks. The ultimate result of such huge effect would badly crash its economic growth, which would almost certainly push Bangladesh towards the fate of one of the worst sufferers of upcoming grand recession in the world. The country’s readymade garment sector, which is one of the two major sources of foreign exchange earning may even go totally or greatly dry thus leaving at least three million workers jobless.

The sign of the existence of Covid-19 patients started showing in Bangladesh from the second week of March, though the top policymakers in the country were left into the total dark. On the condition of anonymity, an official in the World Health Organization (WHO) said, “Bangladesh could have stopped the spread of coronavirus within its population if the government had imposed ban on foreign flights from the second week of March and identify those returnees from the coronavirus affected countries and put them into isolation. This was a huge opportunity that Bangladesh has already missed.”

The second blunder of the Bangladesh authorities was declaring a week-long holiday from 24 March while they did not take any measures in stopping the massive outflow of Dhaka city’s working class, who had gone to their homes in the smaller towns and villages taking the advantage of this sudden holiday. Covid-19 had spread among thousands of people, who were hurriedly leaving Dhaka city, mostly in large groups, through rail, road, river and airways.

WHO official has categorically termed such massive departure of thousands of people from Dhaka city to smaller towns and villages as “irreparable blunder”.

But the last nail in the coffin was hit by the leaders of Bangladesh Readymade Garment Manufacturer’s and Exporter’s Association (BGMEA), which had all on a sudden asked the workers to join their works from 5 April. This was clearly suicidal.

According to statistics and news reports from Bangladesh, its capital city Dhaka and adjacent business town Narayanganj have already become the epicenter of Covid-19 with unknown number of patients. The government has totally failed in realizing the potential health hazard of such a situation. Furthermore, Bangladeshi media and social media are claiming of hundreds of Covid-19 affected people fleeing Narayanganj town in fear of being identified. They are reportedly entering other cities, towns and villages thus spreading the virus within a massive segment of the population.

On 9 April, British journalist David Bergman in a Facebook post wrote: “A Bangladesh Army major has tested positive for Covid-10, two ranking military officers have independently confirmed to Netra News. This is the first case of a military officer getting infected with the virus in Bangladesh.”

Mr. Bergman further wrote, “Corona positive – confirmed. [First] case [in] Bangladesh Army”, one of the military officers wrote to Netra News. They also shared the name and other identifying details of theCovid-19infected officer, which we are not publishing due to privacy concerns. We can however, say that the infected major is a member of the Army Medica; Corps and until recently on duty at the Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka.

“When contacted by Netra News, a spokesperson of the Inter Service Public Relation Directorate (ISPR) said he was not aware of any such case of Covid-19 infection of a member of the Bangladeshi armed forces.

“On March 24th, the Bangladesh government deployed the army to the defence ministry, about 3400 military personnel have been deployed across the country primarily to enforce social distancing but also for preparing lists of people who have tested positive for Covid-19. The troops can be seen patrolling the streets in Dhaka and other cities calling on people to stay indoors and dispersing any crowds.

“As of April the 7th, people are officially reported to have died from the Covid-19 virus in Bangladesh, with 164 testing positive. It is not clear whether the positive test of the army major has been included in the official figure.”

It may be added here that Netra News, a recently launched news portal was blocked by the Bangladesh authorities.

Bangladesh losing the battle

Health experts say, Bangladesh authorities could conveniently win its battle against Covid-19 only if the top decisionmakers in the country, particularly Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would have been correctly briefed about the exact scenario. The fastest growing economy in Asia is now on the verge of facing acute economic hardship, which would start showing up from end June this year.

Because of its high population density Bangladesh is already at high risk of community transmission affecting a large percentage of the country’s population. A group that is particularly vulnerable in this situation is the millions of Rohingya refugees who have been living in packed refugee camps near the Bangladesh-Myanmar border ever since Bangladesh has decided to host them. This makes Bangladesh’s case different from other densely populated countries- a large number of its residents come from neighboring Myanmar who flee their country in 2017 because of communal violence and military crackdown.

Although, right now, the international community is backing Bangladesh and pressuring Myanmar to take the refugees back, the tables may soon turn if Covid-19 spreads to those refugee camps. To Bangladesh, a community transmission of Covid-19 among the Rohingya refugees would bring about an unwarranted disaster – the very contagious Covid-19 will spread in those camps at an unprecedented rate. Bangladesh’s unfit healthcare system makes it almost obvious that the country will not be able to give adequate medical assistance to the refugees – ultimately leading to the death of thousands for which Bangladesh will have to face heavy international criticism, and it will even give Myanmar the opportunity to demand for compensation from Bangladesh.

For Bangladesh, losing this battle against Covid-19 would therefore mean the beginning of a cascade of disasters, ultimately leaving this fast-developing country with millions of its people dead, a damaged economy and foiled reputation internationally.

Nirmala Saha is a former stringer of France24 TV.

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21 COMMENTS

  1. Indians love slandering Bangladesh anytime on any issue, and this Nirmola is no exception like thousands of alike Indians.

  2. The Report written by one Nirmala Saha is an unknown source possibly in the Pay Roll of Anti Government Political Party operating from Overseas . Newsghana is an unknown Portal News regarding Bangladesh as Ghana and Bangladesh has any Credible Political, Economic or Social Connectivity. Even there is no Diplomatic Presence between these two Counterparts . To sum up such News Reviews by unrealistic source should not be taken as a Credible Source.

  3. Bangkadesh is much better placed and has been able to contain spread of COVID19.
    The Reporter is biased against Bangladesh
    economic growth that is by far the highest in South Asia and one of the highest in the world. The country is not small as the Reporter said. It is the 8th largest country in the world with over 160 million people and a growth rate of 8.3 per cent. Bangladesh is highly resilient and has successfully handled natural disasters.

  4. Exactly. It seems India is doing great by lighting lamps! The biggest slum in Mumbai is contaminated already. There are thousands of news on people being reluctant about quarantine, beating up doctors etc. When countries with great health system has failed, Bangladesh is trying it’ level best. The population is stupid in Bangladesh I know but I have not seen much of a conscious population either in any other big countries also!

  5. Bangladesh is in danger of Covid 19 like many other countries but what Nirmala wrote is a fiction of her own with out any strong basis. What will happen in India, a country of 130 crores where the picture is more or less same.

  6. Who is this Nirmala? The poor lady should know the actuqlly scenario here is much better than India, Pakistan or Lanka.

  7. Who said that Bangladesh is a small nation ? First learn how to respect a nation with 1600000000 peoples . Nirmala Saha I think you need some proper education to grow up your mind , i am really sorry for you.

  8. Hats off to Nirmala Sala for portraying the ongoing scenario of Bangladesh. For all those who denied the facts of this article please take the burden to answer that why this page is blocked in Bangladesh? Is it spreading rumors?

  9. Both sources mentioned here seriously lacks credibility
    – Netro news, and
    – David Bargman
    Plz come up with some credible source.
    Because the situation here is much different than what is decribed here.
    There are problems here but craps and goons like your sources will never understand that.
    By the way, what is the besis of that 2 million number at this stage?
    Why not 20 million?
    Why not 20 thousand??
    A lay man can’t put any number without justifying it.
    That’s called bad journalis, sorry to say…

  10. As a bangladeshi we don’t wanna unexpected Death. But already 60 People’s death. May allah give take them jannah.
    we like criticism. It may help us to recover.
    Just have a look USA, Spain, Italy, UK. Who are more stronger than Bangladesh.
    Even you can have a look india. What is going on there.
    I don’t have intention to talk about others. Bangladesh Government working on it. As well as many volunteers working. I hope we will be better soon.
    Reporter made report, that’s his/her job. They have freedom. Let’s them to do.
    Don’t waste time. Focus on this outbreak. Be strong. Make more Public awareness.

  11. Hats off to Nirmala Sala for beautifully portraying the ongoing scenario of Bangladesh. For all those who denied the facts of this article please take the burden to answer that why this page is blocked in Bangladesh?

  12. Indians love slandering Bangladesh anytime on any issue, and this Nirmola is no exception like thousands of alike Indians.

  13. Nirmala has succeeded in portraying a very grim picture indeed. But it is far from true. The entire world is grappling with this problem and Bangladesh is no exception. The Rohinga camp is reportedly doing well during COVID-19 and we hope it continues to do so. We shall overcome.

  14. Former East Pakistan 🇵🇰 and now Bangladesh 🇧🇩 with 18 Crore population is not a small nation but a great nation more in strength and size than most of the European nations. I pray ALLAH JALLA SHAANOHOO again unite East and West Pakistan 🇵🇰 as one country as it was before16 December 1971.

  15. This may be all but true.For those who think it as fake is probably living in fools paradise.
    As the Govt is fascist they block all free flowing media . They have sabotaged the economy as they have the democracy .
    The fascist Govt has stayed in power by force since 2008.
    They have many paid agents who would always condemn any anti Govt news.

  16. Don’t have to a single country but can always be a partner to stop Indian hegemony.
    The extremist Hindu are destroying peace in the subcontinent.

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