The government is considering engaging retired physicians and nurses by giving them proper training to ensure treatment for all Covid-19 patients.
Speaking at a videoconference on Thursday with public representatives and officials of the Dhaka division, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said, "We can make better use of retired physicians and nurses after giving them proper training in tackling the crisis arising out of the coronavirus pandemic."
She added that the country has more shortage of nurses than of physicians.
According to the Health and Family Welfare Ministry's human resources branch HRH datasheet 2019, there are 93,741 registered MBBS graduates in the country, of whom 76,867 are available.
According to same source, there are presently 57,000 registered nursing and midwifery professionals in Bangladesh. However, no institutions concerned could provide the actual number of retired health professionals.
The prime minister asked the authorities concerned to prepare more beds in hospitals to ensure treatment for the newly infected Covid-19 patients, although several hospitals have already been designated for this purpose.
When officials of Narayanganj and Gopalganj districts drew her attention to the issue of an installation of PCR labs there for quicker testing of the Covid-19 patients, Sheikh Hasina asked the local authorities to take prompt measures for sending the samples to nearby districts which have testing facilities, and receive the test reports online.
She also asked health ministry officials participating in the videoconference from the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) to take measures for installing a PCR laboratory in Narayanganj.
In response, the officials said it would take time to install the lab.
The health ministry officials informed Sheikh Hasina that they have already taken initiatives in setting up a PCR lab in Faridpur district, and its operation will start in two days.
Meanwhile, the civil surgeon of Narayanganj informed the prime minister about the shortage of N95 masks for health professionals. The premier instantly enquired of the officials concerned, who replied that they are unavailable, but the same standard masks are available to the DGHS.
Ration cards for another 50 lakh vulnerable people
The prime minister further said the government will issue ration cards for another 50 lakh vulnerable people so that they can get rice at a subsidised rate of Tk10 per kg.
"Now, 50 lakh people have ration cards for getting rice at Tk10 per kg. We've decided to prepare ration cards for another 50 lakh people," she said, adding that the government is providing assistance to people of all classes and professions.
"We have declared packages amounting toTk92,000 crore to tackle the recession," Sheikh Hasina said.
Since March, the government has been selling rice at Tk10 per kg among poor people who have no ration cards.
"As there were some problems in distributing the rice, we temporarily postponed the programme recently. As a result, we have directed the authorities to prepare a list of people who will get the new ration card facility," she added.
Referring to the incident of a mother being left in a jungle as she has been suffering from cold, cough and fever, the prime minister requested everyone to be humane towards Covid-19 patients.
Sheikh Hasina said, "People are becoming inhumane after panicking in the wake of the coronavirus. There is no logic behind such inhumanity. Take measures for giving treatment if any person shows coronavirus symptoms."
The prime minister also criticised the mentality of making a physician leave his own neighbourhood after he fell sick, and said she wanted to bring it to the notice of everyone as she had heard of many such incidents.
The prime minister questioned, "Why are such incidents happening in Bangladesh? Bangladeshi people are not supposed to act in such inhumane manner."
She also said, "As our harvesting season nears, farmers should be in the fields as it poses no risk of spreading the virus, because they can maintain the required distancing there. Village markets should be kept open in open spaces."
Regarding relief embezzlement, Sheikh Hasina said, "Local committees have been formed to locate the true underprivileged and extend government relief to them. The respective authorities were given the order to prevent irregularities of any sort.
"We haven't found as many irregularities as reported regarding government relief misappropriation after investigation, but what little there is will be strictly contained."
The prime minister continued, "The government will take proper action against those who are involved in such immoral activities. Even my party members will not be spared if they are found involved in misusing relief funds meant for the poor during the coronavirus crisis."
Sheikh Hasina asked her party leaders and activists as well as public representatives to provide relief material to the right people and enlist the needy ones irrespective of their political affiliations across the country.
"Do not consider who my voters are and who are not. The people who are in trouble have to be enlisted," she said.
Referring to the suspension of prayers at mosques in Saudi Arabia, the prime minister urged Muslim devotees to say their Taraweeh prayers at home, instead of in mosques during the upcoming month of holy Ramadan.
Sheikh Hasina reiterated her call to all for maintaining stay-at-home and social distancing guidelines, avoiding mass gatherings and abiding by the health ministry's directives from time to time to support the government's efforts to check the spread of the coronavirus.
Mentioning that the nine districts of Dhaka division have the highest number of Covid-19 patients, she asked the local administrations and law enforcement agencies to make sure that no outsider could enter those areas as a measure to stop a further spread of the coronavirus.
She also instructed the local administrations to put foreign returnees in compulsory home quarantine and arrange places for putting them under institutional quarantine, if necessary, to prevent the spread of the disease.
Sheikh Hasina exchanged views on the same issue with public representatives and officials of Khulna and Barishal divisions on April 12, and of Chattogram and Sylhet divisions on April 7.
The novel coronavirus claimed 60 lives and infected 1,572 others in Bangladesh as of Thursday.