Let's face it – as a response to Covid-19, no nation, irrespective of rich or poor, can endure a lockdown indefinitely.
Richer nations can perhaps buy some extra precious time with their resources, but poorer ones must make imminent decisions of opening up sooner rather than later.
How soon or late the societies should be opened up is going to be a delicate act of balancing. The reality is no one knows how long the novel coronavirus will keep menacing the societies.
So, opening up societies and going back to life before Covid-19 must not be confused with each other.
There is no normalcy without a vaccine. At present, the search for a vaccine is ongoing round the clock.
At least, three human trials of vaccines have begun – two in the United States and the other in China.
Though that sounds promising, the top health experts agree that we are at least 12 to 18 months away from a possible vaccine. Many others have conceded that even 12 to 18 months is a very optimistic timeline.
Inventing a vaccine is a very time-consuming endeavor. The record so far is the development of mumps vaccine, which took scientists four years.
However, modern technology and unprecedented level of global cooperation are likely to shorten the time needed to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.
Then again, scaling the vaccine production to cover the entire world will be a massive undertaking and potentially account for some considerable duration of time.
Needless to say, it is not going to be anytime soon when a vaccine gets developed and reaches the mass.
And, that brings me to my next point.
As we navigate through this nearly guaranteed long wait, when should we reopen?
When should we get out of our houses?
As different governments contemplate their moves, thankfully there are some examples which can be leveraged.
Let's take a look at Wuhan.
Though there are widespread doubts about the actual number of infection and death toll, there are no doubts that China has successfully blocked the spread of the virus for now and opened up the city.
Wuhan was in strict lockdown for straight 76 days when almost no one was allowed to get out.
During this period, the Chinese governments facilitated food supplies and other essentials so that people could stay indoors.
The unprecedented lockdown coupled with widespread monitoring and the management of the distributions of these items helped contain the virus.
Chinese authorities opened Wuhan only when there were no new cases for 14 days at a stretch.
The city is slowly getting to some level of normalcy, although the old normal remains a distant reality.
South Korea, another success story, has not put any restrictions at all on its people.
The country stepped in early in the game and relied on widespread testing, contact tracing and quarantine.
As a result, they could always keep the total number of patients in check and go about regular socio-economic activities with some degree of normalcy.
Other countries like Denmark, Germany or New Zealand are slowly opening up or going to open up in phases in the recent future.
Like South Korea, they all have "flattened the curve", which means they controlled the number of infections at a point where the number of newly infected will not paralyse the health care system.
Ending lockdowns across the globe are taking place slowly and with caution.
In Germany, authorities are allowing some shops and restaurants to reopen while major events or private parties remain banned, people must wear protective masks outside and a strong infrastructure of rapid contact tracing and quarantine put in place.
Yet, Germany remains vigilant of a second wave of infections, similar to the one currently unfolding in Singapore, when the entire process of the lockdown may have to be repeated.
Until a vaccine is available, there could be periodic cyclical repetitions of lockdowns, efforts towards flattening the curve and slow reopening.
Undeniably, these success stories are partially afforded due to the availability of financial resources.
Therefore, the question arises how long a global-south country like Bangladesh can afford to remain under lockdown.
The answer mostly lies in understanding whether ending the lockdown without flattening the curve will normalise our lives and help the economy.
A quick thought experiment can help us reach the answer: how many of us are willing to go back to work when we see dead bodies are piling up at the corner?
The answer is probably a very few.
Even if many of us do, it would probably push the situation to spiral out of control with exponential increase of infection rates that would result in more economic burden than benefits for the society.
Thus, it would end up hurting the economy even further.
Long story short - economists generally agree with health care experts that lifting lockdowns prematurely could be disastrous.
In addition, premature lifting could be discriminatory and put undue burden on the underprivileged.
While they would need to step outside as the virus loom large in the background, their affluent counterparts could continue to find shelter in the safety of their homes.
As a result, people in lower economic tiers would end up getting infected in higher numbers - something that would burden them financially even more.
Also, it is still unknown if those recovered from Covid-19 can get infected again. Therefore, whether it is possible to develop "herd immunity" remains a question.
Now, successful lockdowns might seem like a product of resource availabilities but a huge part of it is owed to proficient crisis management.
Countries like Bangladesh can make up, in part, for its resource scarcity through high quality crisis management and rigorous planning.
The country has dueled with natural disasters for decades, learned to optimise resources and excelled in rapid response.
In theory, the same experience can be employed and scaled to manage the lockdowns as people are methodically supplied with food and other essential items as best as possible.
This will buy time for local manufacturers to start making kits locally and authorities to start testing widely.
With strict lockdowns, widespread testing and quarantining individuals as needed – Bangladesh could finally get ahead of the virus.
Undoubtedly, lockdowns are not without limitations.
It might look tempting to end it after a few weeks as so many people are without enough essentials, businesses losing money, food distribution chain under severe stress while many people are getting out of home regardless and the number of infected individuals continue to increase.
But evidences suggest that it is time to double down and ensure lockdown remains in effect until data suggest the curve has flattened.
It is the best weapon we got in our stash to stop the enemy from wreaking havoc in our densely populated country.
Arif Ekram is a global development practitioner, currently working at Candid, a NY-based research organization.