While things are tense in Bangladesh now as new cases of Covid-19 are being confirmed almost every day, many companies are coming forward to help stem the further spread of the disease.
Some companies have already started working on it, while some others are at the planning phase.
In spite of planning something big, many of the firms are unable to move ahead with the work because they do not have adequate or specific information about the problem.
Sources at the health ministry say if large companies take any initiative they can work in coordination with the ministry, the health directorate, and the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR).
By now, two leading business conglomerates in the country – Akij Group and Beximco – have made their initiatives public. The Business Standard has learnt that several other industrial groups are also working on taking big initiatives.
Some owners and employees of large industrial groups and organisations are offering financial assistance or distributing everyday essentials among low-income people of their own accord.
The need for coordinated efforts
The World Health Organisation has declared the new coronavirus outbreak a pandemic. Bangladesh is also at war against the deadly virus.
It is now a globally accepted assertion that coordinated efforts are vital in battles like the one against Covid -19.
The IEDCR has previously issued statements welcoming private initiatives. As part of this, a number of non-government development organisations are trying to build public awareness of the coronavirus.
The government has also given approval to Gonoshasthaya Kendra to manufacture coronavirus diagnostic test kits.
Dr Mushtuq Husain, adviser to the IEDCR, said at present healthcare services, coronavirus test kits, and personal protective equipment (PPE) are more crucial than anything else to keep Covid -19 at bay.
The government is trying to arrange these facilities on its own efforts and with the help of its development partners, Mushtaq pointed out, adding that this needs to be done on a larger scale.
He went on to say that anyone can come forward to do this, and start working after communicating with the health ministry or the health directorate.
"The time is now; there is no scope to delay" he stressed.
Businesspeople, however, feel the government should make an announcement clarifying what types of help it wants and how that can be executed.
Beximco provides PPE worth Tk15 crore
Bangladeshi corporate giant Beximco Group has decided to provide PPE, medicine, and test kits for the protection of frontline healthcare workers who are dealing with Covid -19 patients.
Beximco Group's pharmaceutical division, Beximco Pharma, has already started distributing this equipment.
The industrial group has contributed Tk15 crore to support this initiative.
Nazmul Hassan, managing director of Beximco Pharma handed over the first consignment of the equipment to representatives from different testing centres and government-designated hospitals for treating Covid -19 patients on Saturday.
Beximco Group Chairman ASF Rahman said the group is always committed to extending support during any national emergency.
"As Covid -19 is spreading fast, affecting almost every country around the world, we are also facing an unprecedented challenge to cope with the impact of this pandemic."
"Ensuring access to PPEs is a top priority right now, and we are proud to be responding to this need to ensure the safety of healthcare professionals in Bangladesh. We, as a responsible business group, will continue to provide our wholehearted support to the government in facing this enormous crisis," said ASF Rahman.
Beximco Group Vice-Chairman Salman F Rahman, also private industry and investment adviser to the prime minister, said the corporate companies in Bangladesh are aware of their social responsibilities and have always joined the national efforts to tackle any crisis.
Referring to the prime minister's speech stating this fight against the coronavirus as a war and that it is a testing time for humanity, Salman said, "It has to be fought on all fronts involving both private and public sectors."
"I believe the initiative taken up by Beximco Group will inspire other entities, large and small, in Bangladesh to come forward in helping the government tackle this crisis to the best of their abilities," he said.
Beximco Pharma will distribute PPEs, which include very high-quality imported 'TYVEK Protective Coveralls' (protective gowns), face masks, gloves, protective goggles etc, in two phases.
In the first phase, the company will distribute a sufficient number of PPEs to two testing centres ─ IEDCR and icddr,b, and other government-designated hospitals for Covid -19 treatment.
In the second phase, these PPEs will be distributed nationwide to more than 150 leading hospitals.
Akij Group's initiative to set up hospital faces obstacles
Business conglomerate Akij Group had announced a plan to construct a specialised hospital like Leishenshan Hospital in China to detect and treat coronavirus patients in the country.
Accordingly, construction began on Saturday to build the hospital temporarily on a two-bigha plot next to the factory of motorcycle makers TVS in Tejgaon.
The construction was scheduled to be complete within one week. Akij Group had planned to start treating coronavrirus patients for free after installing all necessary healthcare equipment in the next one week.
Dr Zafarullah Chowdhury, founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra is also reportedly involved with the hospital project.
It has been learnt that Akij Group was waiting for government approval for the hospital, and that at the same time they were also going ahead with the construction.
However, local people staged a demonstration to protest the building of the hospital soon after construction began.
Three people, including security and construction workers, were injured as scores of locals vandalised the site.
The disgruntled locals took to the streets claiming that there is densely populated slum in the area, and building a hospital there would expose its residents to the risk of coronavirus infection.
The agitating local people left the site after one and a half-an-hour of demonstration when police assured them that the hospital would not be built there.
The Business Standard tried to reach Akij Group Chairman Sheikh Nasir Uddin and Managing Director Basir Uddin over the telephone, but neither of them picked up the calls.
Wishing anonymity, an administrative officer of the company said they had taken up the initiative in public interest. He pointed out that support from the government is essential for such a project, and added that the hospital will be built if the government wants.
Meanwhile, Deputy Managing Director of Meghna Group Asif Iqbal said their company is distributing everyday essentials including food to low-income communities. The volume and scope of support will increase in future, he added.