Yesterday's pictures on newspapers showing thousands of garment workers cramming the streets and marching to join their work reveal only an unnerving fact – we are going to kick start the economy based on a single chilling bet that our population is young and they will somehow come out of the raging Covid-19 pandemic unscathed.
But just on the same day, the WHO had issued a stark warning - to come out of the lockdown, a country needs to have in place a proper health care system to face off possible new waves of infection as economic activities start.
Even Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had stressed the condition that health safety was a prerequisite for factory reopening. Physical distancing is a crucial part of health safety in the present situation, an iota of which was absent yesterday as the workers jostled on the streets to enter their workplaces. The factory owners showed their total disregard to the health, safety and wellbeing of the workers and the citizens at large by ignoring arranging an organised return to work.
These workers are returning and, in fact, the economy is poised to reopen with a broken and neglected healthcare system unable to cope with any emergency as warned of by the international organisations already.
For example, in October last year, the Global Health Security Index raised a red flag about the country's healthcare system with its findings that the country is far from prepared for a major disease outbreak.
According to the index, Bangladesh is poorly prepared to prevent the emergence or release of pathogens, rapid response to and mitigation of the spread of an epidemic and sufficient and robust healthcare system to treat the sick and protect its health workers.
And is it not exactly that happening now as the Covid-19 pandemic sweeps throughout the country?
Bangladesh scored only 35 out of 100, which is below the average score of 40 in the Index. And it ranked 113th out of 195 countries on the index jointly prepared by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
The fact is that decades of neglect have left the public health system with a very weak arsenal to fight and eliminate the highly contagious disease Covid-19. Bangladesh spent less than one percent of its GDP on the public health system, which is far lower than the WHO's minimum requirement of five percent of GDP.
Although not comparable, yet developed countries like the US (16.9 percent), Germany (11.2 percent), France (11.2 percent) and Japan (10.9 percent) spend more than 10 percent of GDP on healthcare.
With that reality in mind, what is most needed now is to maintain physical distancing among the workers.
However, media reports say this critical social distancing rule is not being properly maintained in many of the factories in Narayanganj, Gazipur, Savar and Chottogram.
Professor Nazrul Islam, former vice-chancellor of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University and a virologist, told The Business Standard that some garment factories are going to be reopened to keep the economy moving but the situation will deteriorate if social distancing is not maintained.
Stressing some important health practices, he said, "Workers in the garment factories must keep a distance of two meters from each other. They have to go to work wearing facemasks. There should be adequate arrangements for washing hands at the factories.
"Workers will have to be divided into three teams. Each of them will work for seven days and then go to quarantine for 14 days. The three teams will be working by rotation. Monitoring must be ensured so that no infected worker enters the factory."
Countries in Europe, such as Spain and Italy, are gradually opening their economies allowing people in manufacturing, construction and some services to return to work, but they must stick to strict safety guidelines as the virus has not disappeared altogether.
The Spanish prime minister warned that "de-escalation will be slow. We must avoid missteps. If we stay on top of the virus and our health system maintains and reinforces that impression, then we will propose another step."
The WHO warning that there are no "immunity passports" to people who have recovered from Covid-19, meaning people who are infected once can get a second infection, has further heightened the urgency for proper safety measures.
But in the rush to kick start the economy, caution seems to have been thrown to the wind. These vital safety measures do not seem to be the competing priorities anymore.
And the biggest surprise probably is this, although Bangladesh has announced a stimulus package for businesses, it has not yet made any commitment to bolster its feeble healthcare system exposed so callously to a danger of an unprecedented proportion in this time of emergency.
The healthcare systems of the developed countries were radically improved following the cholera epidemic in mid-nineteenth century London and the Spanish flu which made the governments all over the world realise the importance of a robust public health system, wrote the Nobel-winning economist Angus Deaton in his 2013 book, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality.
And so, the governments in those countries intelligently refocused their spending priorities to healthcare.
However, healthcare did not change much for Bangladesh and India, possibly because of the colonial mindset of apathy of the British Raj's policy and its sheer neglect for its colony which they considered only as an exploitable resource to top up their vaults.
This is also reflected in an UNDP report published this month that focused on 18 countries in Asia-Asia pacific and shows Bangladesh as lagging behind in providing its citizens social safety and health care during the coronavirus pandemic.