We welcome the government's decision to prepare every district hospital of the country to fight the coronavirus as part of the new Covid-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness Project. A total of Tk 2,492 crore has been allocated for this project and the Covid-19 Response Emergency Assistance programme.
Under the first project, every district hospital will have a 20-bed Isolation Unit (IU) and a five-bed Critical Care Unit (CCU), as well as 50-bed IUs and 10-bed CCUs in 17 public medical colleges. However, given the current high rate of infection in Bangladesh, with over 2,000 new infections recorded almost every day, will this be enough? Will the district hospitals have enough healthcare workers to operate effectively? We must remember that some districts are more affected than others, and resources must be spread out accordingly.
The government schemes also involve a 250-bed hospital in the capital for essential workers. This is crucial given how many frontline workers have already been infected. However, we hope the government schemes will give equal importance to the prevention of infection of workers. While the Emergency Assistance fund has allocations for the purchase of crucial medical equipment and supplies, it is unclear whether this also includes PPEs that are essential for frontline workers now.
Finally, the government projects will focus on setting up infection prevention and control units in 492 upazila health complexes, and 19 microbiology testing labs will be set up across the country. This is a most welcome step, especially since Bangladesh still has one of the lowest rates of testing in South Asia. However, we have reported in this daily before on the Health Ministry's lacklustre response to public and non-government institutions who have offered their facilities for testing. The key to stopping this spread is immediate implementation of these proposed projects, including ramping up of testing, and there is no space for lethargy or inefficiency during this crucial period.
Recent projections suggest that coronavirus cases in Bangladesh could jump to around 1.2 lakh by the end of this month. The proposed government schemes will only be able to fight coronavirus if corruption and inefficiency is rooted out of the process. We urge the government to encourage all ministries and departments involved to act without delay, and to exercise due diligence and take a strong stance against irregularities to ensure the funds are being utilised for intended purposes.