The coronavirus has brought all -- from kings to commoners -- to their knees. What is happening right at this moment across the world is both unbelievable and dreadful. All the medical advancements that the modern world has made over decades are now proving to be almost ineffective against this 'submicroscopic infectious agent'.
The man, who is leading the most powerful nation -- the USA -- in the world only a few weeks back, had made fun of coronavirus. He is now finding it hard to deal with an unprecedented health emergency his country has ever witnessed. In many states of the USA, frontline health workers are facing acute shortage of personal protective gears, ventilators etc., as the number of people infected with the virus has soared to nearly 200,000 in a matter of days. There are also a few grim predictions about the corona outbreak in that country.
Fortunately, none in Bangladesh has made fun out of the coronavirus when it was ravaging the Chinese province called Hubei, South Korea and Iran. However, some people had an impression that most Bangladeshis' built-in body defence system would be able to defeat the virus. They have proved wrong as official estimates put the death figure at 6 and the total number of people infected by the virus at 54 until April 01. Besides, at least 50 more Bangladeshis living in other countries have already succumbed to corona infection. None can predict what remains in store for a nation of 170 million in the coming days.
It is widely alleged that the relevant authorities despite having enough time since the outbreak of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, in China did not make adequate preparations to handle a brewing health emergency. They took things casually as far as quarantining of all the incoming international passengers is concerned. The passengers should have been forced to go through a compulsory 14-day period quarantine from mid-January or early February. However, such quarantining would have required large accommodation facilities. The government could well manage that with the help of the private sector.
However, that phase is over. What is important now is the detection of corona cases and providing treatment to Covid-19 patients. For detecting corona cases, tests are necessary. And for treating patients, the hospitals do need adequate number of PPE for health workers and ventilators, oxygen cylinders and beds in the intensive care units (ICUs). Following the arrival of a few thousand kits and PPE from China some days back, the health authorities are now better equipped than before. But the stock of these items is far from satisfactory.
However, a sense of urgency is being witnessed among the health officials at the moment. Had they demonstrated the same urgency a couple of months back, the situation would have been far more comfortable for them now. Procuring all the items needed to deal with Covid-19 has become difficult as almost all the countries are in a rat race to collect those.
In most countries lockdown periods are being used to make all the preparations necessary to handle an unprecedented health emergency. Hopefully, the directorate general of health services (DGHS) is doing the same.
In the meanwhile, it would not be out of place to mention the scepticism seen among a section of people about the information being dished out by the DGHS about death and new cases of infection. There is no denying that it is hard to get the true picture because of a limited number of tests being done by the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR). The scenario might undergo a notable change when all the corona virus testing centres now being created in some other districts are ready for carrying out tests. It is, however, important to note here that there has been manifold increase in the number of patients with respiratory troubles across the country in recent months.
Treating Covid-19 patients has become yet another problem. The Kuwait-Bangladesh Friendship Hospital in Dhaka has been treating corona patients since the outbreak of the disease. The government selected three more private and four public hospitals to accommodate Covid patients. Private hospitals are smaller in size and three of the public sector hospitals do not have ICU facility, which is the most essential part of treating Covid patients.
The government decision to involve the internationally-famed ICDDRB (International Centre for Diarrhoeal Diseases Research, Bangladesh) for testing corona deserves appreciation. It should involve some other reputed private hospitals and diagnostic centres for testing and treating Covid patients. The private hospitals do have over 90,000 beds and 737 ICUs. The number is several times more than those of the public health facilities.