Scores of prominent citizens of the country have called for a synchronised and effective approach from the government to fight a large-scale pandemic such as the novel coronavirus.
They have also demanded that the government immediately formulate a master plan, incorporating all ministries, civil society members, specialist doctors, environmentalists and other experts.
In the wake of the coronavirus situation in the country, 63 eminent citizens, including university professors, researchers, journalists, rights activists and cultural personalities, have written an open letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and placed 10 demands there.
They proposed forming an independent and highly powerful multi-functional working committee, comprising of representatives from different levels of citizens, to regularly monitor government activities, provide them with necessary instructions and provide facts about the coronavirus to the people.
In the letter, they expressed deep concern over the poor health management in the country, and a stark absence of adequate preparedness and coordination among government organs to combat the pandemic.
They said the government's failure to quarantine returnees from affected countries proves how the lack of coordination and readiness can push the country to the brink of a great disaster.
The country also does not have adequate equipment to perform coronavirus tests, nor does it have safety gear for doctors, including masks, sanitisers and ventilators, reads the letter.
Due to a lack of testing facilities, the government's statement about coronavirus cases in the country thus holds no credibility, it also says.
Amid such a situation, the government's "false" claim that "they are all prepared" made citizens deeply concerned, aggrieved and disappointed over the situation, according to the letter.
What are the 10 demands?
- The government should publish a whitepaper about their plan and procedure of execution to combat the coronavirus. They should inform citizens about the preparedness of upazila health complexes countrywide and ensure enough funds for them on a priority basis.
- The government should provide free coronavirus testing kits, other necessary equipment and their proper management across the country. Measures should also be taken for an immediate release of raw material being imported to produce kits. Raw material should be exempted from all taxes.
- All the entry points in the country, air, marine and land ports, rail stations, ferry- and launch terminals, should be strictly monitored. A map of possible infected areas should be immediately drafted based on location of foreign returnees. All tourist destinations, including the Chattogram Hill Tracts, should be locked down.
- Remote and large establishments, including hotels, motels, resorts etc, should be made temporary quarantine centres. The army can be assigned in making and managing temporary hospitals in stadiums, gymnasiums and empty buildings around the country. Combined Military Hospital and private hospitals should be brought under one synchronised plan.
- All doctors, nurses and other health workers should be supplied with safety apparel and other necessary equipment very quickly. Health workers should be trained in order to enable them to serve patients for a long time.
- Public transportation, open spaces and all other infection hotspots should be disinfected regularly. Necessary measures should be taken to reduce coronavirus risks in slums and jails. Security measures, alongside providing nutritional food, should also be ensured at Rohingya camps.
- Workers of different factories, including those in the garment sector, should be allowed leave along with payment.
- The government should stop the hoarding of daily commodities and ensure their fair prices. Low-income and jobless people should be given government rations, and financial security should be given to extremely vulnerable people.
- Necessary training and equipment should be provided to local clubs and organisations and to students of colleges and universities with the help of experts, health workers and religious leaders so that they can also take part in preventing the outbreak.
- Apart from all these, the government should publish a plan to prevent dengue and chikungunya during the upcoming monsoon.