Pandemics are characterised by their sudden appearance, infectious nature and, potency to become widespread worldwide. Right now, pandemics are the biggest worrying reality for us.
Pandemics can be classified as emerging or re-emerging. When a pandemic is initiated by a newly identified strain of an infectious disease, it becomes an emerging pandemic. On the other hand, diseases that might have declined once but become problems for a significant proportion of the population afresh are termed as re-emerging pandemics.
For example, despite sincere vaccination efforts being undertaken to eradicate the polio pandemic, children from a war-torn community in Pakistan had fallen victim to the disease again as vaccination effort was disrupted within that area.
As the deadly SARS-CoV-2 pandemic rages across the globe, thousands of people are losing their lives on a daily basis. However, our losses are not limited to death only.
Swine flu and avian influenza pandemic did not have a high mortality rate and also did not have such a far-reaching impact on population. Nonetheless, the debilitating impact of the novel coronavirus is capable of toppling empires, as we have seen.
This Covid-19 pandemic has become the defining global crisis of our time. To deal with its detrimental impacts and also to limit our losses from any future pandemics, we need to make smart decisions. In addition to basic developments, i.e., increasing ICU capacity in hospitals and ensuring constant supply of PPE for healthcare workers, my general suggestions for Bangladesh are as follows:
Establishment of strong healthcare system:
By strengthening the existing healthcare system of Bangladesh, we need to ensure that the primary health condition of our citizens can improve. This will not only allow for us to have a clear overview of the health condition of the population but also allow us to detect outbreaks on time. We also need to incorporate innovation while doing this. To illustrate, we can utilise our numerous accessible waterways by installing mobile healthcare facilities in water vehicles.
Building a medical reserve corps:
In 2016, as a part of his bigger plan to tackle pandemics, Bill Gates had proposed that every nation should prepare a team of epidemiologists who will be ready to respond when outbreaks occur. He also advised that this team should pair up with the military to take advantage of necessary detection logistics. This project can indeed become very effective in Bangladesh as our military has time and again proven its capacity to respond during crises of the country. Their collaboration with epidemiologists can only improve our chances of survival.
Careful pandemic planning:
To stop our health systems from being overwhelmed during a pandemic, volunteers should be trained beforehand to facilitate diagnostics, data collection and treatment approaches. By decentralising healthcare services and training general people to receive basic treatments at home, we can reduce the pressure on frontline health workers when outbreaks occur.
Building a really good response system:
As a part of the modern world, we now have access to satellite data that allow us to collect more detailed information on population habits and their movement. In tracking the spread of a virus we should utilise the available technical tools. Public health experts need to employ the best strategies beforehand. For example, our schools, rest-houses and hotels should have the capacity to turn into emergency response healthcare facilities when a large number of patients are arriving in hospitals.
Faster vaccine preparation and dosage administration:
Speeding up the immunisation process is the best way to tackle a pandemic according to health experts. In a densely populated country like ours, it is also important to ensure administration of vaccines to all citizens to stop the pandemic from re-emerging. We need to check every vulnerable pocket within our territories to keep everyone safe.
Stockpile of antiviral drugs:
In order to prepare for the next outbreak, an important recommendation from scientists is to develop and stockpile drugs that target a wide range of viral pathogens. For example, when Covid-19 hit, the scientists were equipped with the Remdesivir drug for its trial on critical patients. However, it was expected of the pharmaceuticals to be prepared with more options. Therefore, we need to create an arsenal of drugs that can stop dangerous viral infections available for use.
Focusing on mental health well-being of the population:
Pandemics do not only take a vicious toll on our physical health. To combat the devastating impacts of these pandemics on our mental health, our institutions need to be ready beforehand. Utilising the platforms of media personalities, religious leaders and political figures, the basic awareness to face future pandemics can be raised as well.
Without a doubt, pandemics are challenging; even more so for a country like Bangladesh which is already riddled with poverty, environmental degradation and unplanned urbanisation. However, the resilience of Bangladeshi people shall not be overlooked. By putting our best minds together, let us leave the dark days of the pandemics behind.
Preeti Kana Sikder is an assistant professor of Jahangirnagar University. She teaches Environmental law and the Department of Law & Justice.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard