The decision by the government to defer the official launch of Bangabandhu's birth centenary celebrations is welcome given the seriousness of the coronavirus epidemic now sweeping across the globe. The fact that there has been a detection of the disease among some Bangladeshis is a clear sign that like every other region and country, ours is not safe. It would therefore have been unwise to place people at risk through the crowd-heavy celebrations that would have marked the centenary celebrations. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has wisely noted that it is the health of people that matters at present and that the centenary programmes, stretching throughout the year, can be observed through other means. We appreciate the leadership she has demonstrated in this respect.
There is no gainsaying that the novel coronavirus has been creating havoc all over the globe and not just on land. Even cruise ships carrying thousands of tourists have been slapped with quarantine given that many of these people have become infected with the disease. The reach of the disease is unlike any we have experienced in our lifetime or even before that. Such a swift spread of any virus, accompanied by no known measures to contain it, has naturally been creating panic everywhere. With more than 3,000 people dead from the virus and with countries like Italy putting entire regions in lockdown, the virulence of the problem can be well imagined.
In Bangladesh, there is today a greater need than before to adopt measures that will effectively contain the spread of the disease. In the first place, there must be constant reminders to people, through the media and other means, that they do not need to panic. In the second, there must be measures, especially at all entry points into the country, to fully and effectively check people coming to Bangladesh from abroad. Reports that a good number of thermal scanners at airports are not working are dispiriting. Besides, the concerns expressed recently by the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh on the methodology applied by Dhaka to screen incoming passengers should also be taken into account.
The steps against coronavirus must not be confined to the urban areas only, for there is also a grave need to examine the situation in the rural areas of the country. Traditionally our people have not been aware of the nature of the various ailments they have suffered from and have consequently not gone for proper treatment. It is a reality the authorities should bear in mind as they go into tackling coronavirus.
The world is today at risk. It is therefore for individual governments to devise the means by which they can limit the damage that coronavirus threatens them with.
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