It had almost become a faded memory – Covid-19.
The ministry would do its regular job of sending out the daily numbers of deaths and cases. Nobody would hardly bother to pay attention, because the situation had improved to such an extent that hospital ICUs, once the most coveted places during the early pandemic days, were left unoccupied. Many hospitals had closed down their Covid units with a sigh that their booming days were over.
So businesses went back to work with more vigour to make up for the lockdown losses. Business confidence had an uptick. The lay of the land looked good as there was no dearth of positive news pouring in from all sides.
On the WHO website, Bangladesh's curves of death and infection supported this mood swing. After reaching a peak close to 1 July, both lines started dipping, almost continuously except for some blips.
Then the lines suddenly swung up steeply and continuously at almost 90 degrees since 1 March. And there is no stopping.
And now we reached a figure yesterday that no one wanted to see – 10,000 deaths since Bangladesh saw its first Covid-19 cases on 8 March 2020.
Much of it could have been avoided only if we had been not so callous. If only we had not thronged the sea beaches and shopping centres in hordes. Only if we had maintained social distancing – only if we had not been so careless in mingling and gathering at social events.
A baseless sense of exceptionalism, the I-will-not-get-the-virus and we-Bangladeshis-are-immune-to-it attitude, have led us here today which called for a lockdown once again. Even the lockdown turned into a farce as measures defied reasons. But then again we had to defy the virus because hunger from death looked more menacing than infection and a distant possibility of death from Covid-19.
Today almost all of us know somebody who has died from the virus. The 10,000 death figure that we saw yesterday being surpassed is only the official figure. The real figure must be many times higher as many people are dying at home being unable to either find a place at hospitals or unable to bear the treatment cost.
The lockdown is likely to have some impact on the curves. But then what?
If we again go back to business as usual, the deaths and infections are sure to shoot up again. What do we do then? We go for lockdowns again?
Vaccinations are ongoing. While it is certainly going to make a difference, the efficacy of the jabs are debated every day. Vaccines will reduce the rate of hospitalisation and deaths but not infections until social distancing measures are followed by all. And that is not solely the government's job, our collective responsibility is equally important.
It is for sure that Covid-19 is here to stay for years to come. And this makes it all the more urgent to take vaccination more seriously. New variants are emerging, many of which can sidestep the Oxford vaccine. So that needs a vigorous search and procurement of vaccines with an open mind to buy those that are claimed to protect against the most deadly variants such as the UK, South African and Brazil ones.
Moreover, Bangladesh needs to develop a long-term strategy now of developing its health system to face future coronavirus waves. There is no reason to think Bangladesh cannot develop a model health system in the world. Cuba, one of the poorest countries, has already proven that. It only needs vision of the leadership.
The pandemic waves must not be dealt with a one-off attitude but with the preparedness that many more waves are just round the corner.
Otherwise, today's 10,000 figure will roll into another grim one.