Living in the age of a pandemic frenzy, we are facing a mayhem of global anxiety, which some perceive as the most serious global chaos after WWII.
Bangladesh has already joined the fatality club with dozens infected and a number of deaths reported. Bangladesh government's initial steps in checking the outbreak has drawn mixed reactions from the masses.
Emergencies uproot all normalcy - hence, lapses in emergency response have to be borne with tolerance, sympathy and consideration. The government's decision to close all educational institutes, control inbound and outbound air passengers, disseminate awareness bulletins, engaging the digital platforms in educating and informing people about the prevention of coronavirus deserves appreciation.
So far, the scenario appears under control though there is no room to be complacent with the numbers so far reported. Numbers can dramatically rise suddenly and reveal to us the apocalyptic face of the pandemic.
Two reports published on The Business Standard titled "Eight lakh garment workers in Chattogram face corona risk" and "Factories will not be closed: State minister", drew a disturbing picture of an impending disaster.
The state minister's apparent acceptance that the deadly corona crisis will last at least for five more months and her assurance of ILO allowance to keep the factories open - leaving the millions of RMG workers, their families and kin facing a dangerous future - has left us speechless.
We would like to believe she did not really mean it. The most common directive of both WHO and ILO is "social-distance protocol". If we deliberately violate such health prescriptions, we not only are pushing the workers towards a bleak future but also threatening the state of national health.
While countries with far better healthcare systems than ours are opting for measures like national emergency, curfew, lockdown, and war-time regulations, our decision to keep the RMG sector open evokes a deep humanitarian question.
Even when the health minister calls the situation "war-like", the decision to force the labourers to work means it has a homicidal undertone to it. When the world's most developed countries do not claim that their situation is under control, Sufian's complacent claim that the corona pandemic is in their firm grip makes us skeptical.
Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world where the standard of hygiene is still at a rudimentary level. It is acutely vulnerable to pandemic explosion for the obvious reality of its huddled demography. The basic principle of virus travelling through close contact and spreading quickly should be taken into consideration by our policy-makers and strategists.
To avoid any irreparable damage, the government must act swiftly. This is not the time to be concerned about temporary loss; rather plans should be chalked out to minimise the damages with incentives -- as BGMEA and other concerned RMG bosses suggested -- in discussion with bodies like concerned ministries and ILO. By no means, loss of capitalistic profit should be any ground for dehumanising millions of lives.
We cannot afford a potential collective trauma resulting from our imprudent decisions. Monetary loss can be regained but mass human loss weakens a country's moral and emotional base. This is not the time to be divided and fight, rather to spread the spirit of cooperation and concerted effort. We must be cautious about the use of social media and other new technologies at this sensitive moment. Instead of disseminating panic, useful information should reach the masses.
Every life from every profession is precious. Journalists, RMG workers, educators, bankers, bureaucrats, entrepreneurs, industrialists - just to name a few – all are putting their best effort to serve the country in this extraordinary moment. And all of them are equally vulnerable to the fatal contagion. Hence, our prime concern should be to keep everyone safe. We should be tolerant to any hard measures in order to check the destructive effect of Covid -19 keeping in mind the collective well-being and collateral casualty caused by our indifference and imprudence.
The writer is an associate professor at Jahangirnagar University