Published:  12:09 AM, 14 January 2022

Tackling the contagion of Covid 19 new variant is urgent

Following the detection of 10 new Omicron cases in Bangladesh, the government is considering taking fresh steps to prevent further spread of the new coronavirus variant. We welcome this as a positive sign. The government has to proactively try and prevent Omicron transmission, particularly seeing how rapidly it has spread in other countries.

From what we can gather so far, Omicron, although reportedly less deadly than the Delta variant, is far more easily transmissible. This, in some ways, makes it even more of a threat. We have seen how Delta wreaked havoc across the country last year, when the number of cases peaked around July and August. The number of daily new cases during those months regularly stayed above 10,000, putting immense pressure on our healthcare system. It would, therefore, be much wiser for the government to act now to prevent a similar outburst of new cases.

Medical tests and screening of passengers, who are arriving from Omicron-infected countries, at gateways -- land, air, and waterways will be strengthened and all educational institutions (madrassas, pre-primary, primary, secondary, higher secondary and universities) and coaching centers must maintain health rules.

Among the measures that the government is considering taking are: stepping up its inoculation campaign; lowering the age limit for booster doses; and preventing the gathering of unvaccinated people at public places. Moreover, it is also considering not allowing anyone to enter restaurants and shopping malls, and board buses and trains without vaccine certificates, besides making it mandatory for school children above the age of 12 years to receive at least one dose of the vaccine to attend in-person classes. While we appreciate the government planning these measures, we wonder how realistic they would be, particularly given that, so far, only 31 percent of the targeted population have received both doses of the vaccine. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see the government step up its vaccination campaign, which we hope will continue without many hiccups. At the same time, rather than forcing the population to get vaccinated, we hope the government will educate the people why it is important to get the vaccine.

Additionally, the government needs to renew its awareness campaign to encourage people to follow the health guidelines such as wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and going into early isolation if they suspect they have contracted the coronavirus. Ramping up screening at airports and other border points is also crucial—especially since quite a few of the new cases have been detected among people who have come into the country from abroad.

While these preventive measures are extremely important, the government should also upgrade the country's healthcare facilities on an urgent basis. Making sure that hospitals are well equipped and have centralized oxygen systems installed and working properly are agendas that the government should pursue with equal focus.

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