It is not possible to talk about Covid-19 without appearing to be an alarmist. It was not a question of if but when we will be attacked by the new variant that has mutated in India. At a time when we are fighting the second wave of the pandemic and seeing a gradual fall in infection rates and deaths, the news of the Indian variant in Bangladesh is disturbing. The subtype found in Bangladesh seems to be diffusing rather more quickly than two other subtypes detected by scientists in India, it being more contagious than the UK variant.
Given the unbridled movement of people between two countries even when the pandemic was raging in India, that the new variant would affect us, was only to be expected. The ban on cross-border movement has taken effect only a fortnight ago but we shut the stable door after the horse had bolted. Now that the new mutated variant is here there is a need to go for stricter control if we want to avoid facing an India-like calamity.
One of the reasons for the spike in India was the pathetic public disregard for safety measures, large gatherings, and political rallies. But added to that was the fact that medical facilities were totally overwhelmed and the many fatalities that India witnessed were due to lack of oxygen cylinders. We would like to believe that the medical administrators and high-level planners in Bangladeshi have taken lessons from the painful and bitter experiences of India. In other words, the only-in-name lockdown will not do. The mad rush for home only shows that people will not be deterred by anything from going home to celebrate Eid with their families. Thus halting inter-district buses has not helped in preventing people from leaving the cities. Now there is even more crowding inside whatever mode of transport they can find and many are not even wearing masks. Although the second wave may be in the wane, it may be a false indicator, because the worst is yet to come. And it is not an issue of one or two days of Eid. We should factor in all possibilities and prepare for the worst eventualities. There may be a need to go for lockdown in its true sense with everything closed. We do not want a repeat of confusing and contradictory policies and half-hearted lackadaisical enforcement measures that we witnessed this time. As we have witnessed with horror, the catastrophe in India, we must take steps now to prevent the spread, increase testing and contact-tracing, impose quarantine for those entering the country and, most importantly, ensure there is adequate oxygen supply in hospitals and in the market for those whose lives may depend on it.