"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," Benjamin Franklin once said. But what would Franklin have given up to secure a permanent safety – to stall a deadly microbe that has already killed thousands of people?
Given the physical and economic devastation that the virus has already created, it seems obvious that the government has the authority to impose nationwide public health measures. If there is adequate medical justification to subject everyone to restraining orders, what procedural errors could possibly occur?
Earlier WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told G20 leaders: "The pandemic is accelerating at an exponential rate." But there are other diseases that are even more infectious. For example, Covid-19 has a reproductive number of 2.5 whereas it is 10 for Measles, meaning that it can spread much more efficiently. This is also true for Flu viruses. But they have much shorter serial intervals than Covid-19. It is a combination of different things that make coronavirus so deadly.
People are certainly tired of the coronavirus restrictions but tougher rules are essential as critical care units are already full to the brim. Hospitals in the cities are close to being overrun.
The pandemic turned into a 'Tsunami' in the middle of this March. A lockdown was inevitable as a new variant of the virus was spreading in the country at an alarming rate.
The lockdown took effect on April 14 for 7 days and was extended for another week. Everybody apart from essential workers is to stay at home to combat an accelerating second wave of Covid-19. If we do not take immediate action now, our health service could be overwhelmed and more people would die.
According to the World Bank, Bangladesh has 8 hospital beds for every 10,000 people; in comparison, the US and China have respectively 29 and 42 beds per 10,000 people.
Health-care professionals are not able to provide better care when they are overwhelmed with patients or short on critical supplies. If doctors get a continuous flow of patients every day and night, then the system probably is not really prepared to absorb those additional hospitalisations. And when they cannot provide adequate care, the death rates get worse.
The impact of the lockdown could be gauged only after two to three weeks, public health experts suggest. The rise in cases we see now is the result of activities of earlier weeks. The deaths now are from three-week-old infections. We will need to wait two more weeks to see the trend in mortality rate.
At this moment there are 727,780 confirmed cases in Bangladesh. As of April 21, 10,588 people have died in Bangladesh.
In terms of infection and death rates, real numbers are believed to be higher due to the low number of tests and the fact that those who died in private residences are not included in official figures.
Why are Covid-19 cases increasing? Bangladesh could end up being one of the worst affected countries in Asia. Covid-19 transmissions occur from people who do no even realise that they are infected (we have a lot of asymptotic infected people).
Pandemic fatigue is playing a role as well. People are getting tired of hearing about the pandemic and maintaining precautions. Basic health safety tools are not being practised by the larger section of the population. So public awareness and information programmes must be strengthened in promoting and implementing social distancing and other health safety tools.
But lockdown alone, without finding the new cases either through a syndromic approach or through increasing the rate of testing, is not enough to break the chain. Also, reviewing the cities with silent areas is important as well as contact-tracing of all those people who might have got the infection.
We all know what a window of opportunity is - a short period of time within which a key decision is to be made that will produce the desired outcome. In the early weeks of 2021, when the intensity of the virus was comparatively low, we missed the opportunity to be ready, for example, ramping up coronavirus testing, assessing ICU needs as well as stockpiling oxygen and other supplies.
Any route out of the coronavirus crisis requires widespread testing. There could be further waves and so we need to make sure that we have a system in place that enables us to test people rapidly. A newly opened dedicated DNCC hospital at Mohakhali would be of great assistance in providing required services in the current context.
The country had achieved the intermediate success that lasted only until March 2021, but the virus started dancing again. But through the strict measures and 'hard lock down' in place, the nation is fighting back.
Our beloved Prime Minister urged all to follow Covid-19 guidelines strictly and reassured the nation that her government remained beside the people. However, as experts could not ensure the effectiveness of inoculates in every single case, we have to follow the health protocols even after taking the vaccine for Covid-19.
Dr Tarek M Hussain is an International Health Expert working in the Asian Development Bank.
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.