The entire planet has been living a veritable doomsday since the eruption of last year's Covid-19 pandemic. Its health and economic impacts are so grave that many of the world's strongest economies are still in the doldrums.
The US, UK, and the majority of the European countries are still struggling to deal with the second and third wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, despite the advent of the vaccines of different companies.
Bangladesh is not an exception, as the pandemic has affected it too. A couple of relevant questions arise over Bangladesh's handling of the pandemic. Has the country adversely been affected by the cataclysmic effects of the pandemic?
It is not possible for a country like Bangladesh to keep people at home for an extended period by enforcing a lockdown, which is one of the best possible mechanisms to restrain the lethal virus's contamination.
During the early days of the pandemic the government had to enforce a lockdown. The government also declared public holidays for a certain time. Since a substantial portion of the population relies on daily labour for their livelihood, the government-assisted them with pay-outs during those days.
The government implemented different strategies, for instance, selling kitchen commodities at a lower price through the open market sale and transferring direct cash to five million people. It also expanded the number of beneficiaries under the social safety net to save poor people. With the help of government initiatives, these people could manage to survive the pandemic.
The government had invested a substantial amount in saving the economy from this adverse impact of the pandemic. They implemented a robust incentive package worth more than one lakh crore taka. Later additional allocations were made. Even there was additional funding to the health sector for providing free health services to Covid-19 patients.
The government has also decided to provide the countrymen with free vaccines. While many developed countries are struggling to manage vaccines, the Hasina government has managed vaccines from India and started a massive vaccination drive.
Due to success in the management of Covid-19, Bangladesh obtained the 20th position in Covid-19 Resilience Ranking of Bloomberg, with a lower mortality rate than many developed countries.
Unfortunately, many Western media outlets could not stomach the government's tremendous success and started mindless criticism of its performance in tackling the pandemic.
For instance, in mid-June 2020, citing the Icddr,b chief Dr John D Clements, the Economist published misleading information claiming that Dhaka City had as many as 7,50,000 cases of Covid-19 patients at that time. Later on, Dr Clements clarified that the statement was taken out of context in the article as the report made a claim based on the infected staff and officers of Icddr,b, which cannot be applied to the whole city.
On April 7, 2020, Al-Jazeera released a news citing WHO where they claimed that two million people could die in Bangladesh due to Covid-19. The report also noted that the doctors and healthcare providers claimed that they had inadequate personal protective equipment, and the authorities were not prepared to cope with the outbreak's challenges.
This news proved to be misleading since the actual number of deaths of people with Covid-19 infection has not exceeded 10,000 as of today. In another report on March 23, 2020, the channel claimed that the people of Bangladesh were passing their time in horror as the country was not ready to deal with the pandemic's challenge.
Moreover, Al Jazeera claimed that the government intentionally did not undertake massive testing to hide the actual number Covid-19 patents. They also said that people were leaving Dhaka in terror.
The reality was that many people went to their villages since the offices, industries and educational institutions remained closed. When the government decided to open offices and industries, people returned to Dhaka within a shortest possible time.
On June 11, 2020, the Telegraph published a report titled "Coronavirus exposes the deep divide in Bangladesh society" claiming that a segment of the population were critical of the government's decision to relax the lockdown quite early, enabling the rapid spread of Covid-19.
Their apprehension did not come true as the infection rate never reached a dangerous stage, and the vaccination process started well ahead of many countries. In another report titled "Mass exodus from Dhaka as the economic impact of Covid-19 forces Bangladeshis to flee cities" published in July 2020, the outlet claimed that a large group of the population living in Dhaka city was fleeing to the village due to economic hardship. However, it was later found that with the stabilisation of the Covid-19 situation, people started returning to Dhaka.
The country did exceptionally well economically amid the pandemic compared to many of the developed countries. Therefore, it can be argued that the claim made by the outlet was not compatible with reality.
On the other hand, Deutsche Welle in a report titled "Coronavirus: Economy down, poverty up in Bangladesh" published on June 10, 2020, claimed that Covid-19 affected Bangladesh hardly and the country was experiencing a high degree of poverty, something they had managed to bring down over the years.
However, the Economic Forum in its report mentioned that Bangladesh's economy had performed exceptionally well during the pandemic compared to many of the world's giant economies.
Therefore, the whole world finds Bangladesh's economic growth amid the pandemic a surprise. In its different reports, even the Netra News tried to claim that Bangladesh's pandemic condition could turn into an upheaval, though it turned out to be the opposite.
Under the circumstances mentioned above, it can be said that the government's success has frustrated many of the international outlets.
Thus, they published different fictitious and pretentious reports about the pandemic situation in Bangladesh. The reality is that the country has done exceedingly well in coping with the century's worst challenges.
The fake reports on Bangladesh's Covid-19 situation will cut no ice. And if these outlets want to be taken seriously, they should publish the truth and only the truth.
Dr Pranab Kumar Panday is a Professor of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi
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.