Dhaka, Bangladesh
Public health systems must improve

Public health systems must improve

As luck would have it, Bangladesh has not become till now a hotspot of the coronavirus pandemic. But it may explode and take its monstrous shape and begin to mow people down on sweeping speed as it is doing elsewhere in the globe. As a densely populated country with high shares of poor slum-dwellers in major urban areas, Bangladesh is highly vulnerable to infectious diseases. The only way open to our government to stem the spread of coronavirus is to clamp a countrywide shutdown. With the economy virtually at a standstill, the worst sufferers are the daily wage earners. Coronavirus has evidently widened the divide between low-income and high-income groups. There is a large number of workers in the informal sector who are without work and food. It is indeed heartening to see that in an attempt to bring relief to those in extreme isolation under the virus lockdown, food is being doled out. Admittedly, the authorities are frantically trying to manage the crisis through testing, raising awareness, social isolation and distancing and treatment in early phases. But one important aspect that remains unaddressed is the lack of adequate number of ventilators, the machines that help ICU patients with breathing. Bangladesh has far fewer ventilators than the required quantity. We must, therefore, urge the authorities to expand the ventilator services. Bangladesh has to procure the devices either through import or making them locally. Bangladesh needs to improve its public health systems and invest more in responses to pandemics. Bangladesh can certainly produce hand sanitizer, face masks, gloves and protective gears for frontline health professionals at cheaper cost which will go a long way towards fighting COVID-19. Besides, the burden of pandemics on poor people will be lower if the country can provide universal health insurance.

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