Of course, the term ‘lock down’ now appeared to be known to all across countries because of the ongoing pandemic named Covid-19. In fact, most countries in the world have undergone lockdown – countrywide, regional or local level – loosely or strictly at several times with the duration ranging from weeks to months since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2019. Bangladesh is obviously not an exception in this respect. Indeed, Bangladesh already experienced an unofficial lockdown for two months in 2020 and an official lockdown for two months earlier this year. The country experienced both country-wide and local or affected zone-wise lockdown. Currently, there is an official countrywide strict lockdown.
Overall impacts of lockdowns are undoubtedly well known. It affects the economy, disturbs education, puts hindrances to normal ways of living and brings many other negative effects. Given the overall economic conditions of Bangladesh, it may be difficult to go for lockdown for months again and again. Repeated lockdown can hamper GDP growth. Since different sorts of professional activities are affected, people of different tiers are also affected. But, of course, impacts are higher on those who earn on daily basis or who earn the lower amount. In fact, a large number of people are dependent on SMEs and other sorts of formal and informal professions that provide a meager amount of income compared to the amount needed for better living. Consequently, it turns to be difficult for them to cope up. For these, Bangladesh should seek an alternative to lockdown as quickly as possible.
Now, the point is whether lockdown can be stopped altogether in the future. Obviously, it is a difficult question to be answered right now. In fact, different variants of the novel coronavirus including beta and delta have already affected and it is uncertain whether there will be some other new variants of the novel coronavirus that can be more powerful or even can largely evade the existing vaccines which are prepared by keeping the earlier variants into account. For example, the delta variant – alternatively the Indian variant – is more powerful in some aspects. Given that the current infection and death rates do not reduce much, more powerful variants are found in the future and the existing vaccines remain largely ineffective to new future variants, it may be difficult to evade repeated lockdown.
Several studies including a study published in Nature indicate that some existing vaccines including Moderna are effective against the delta variant – a virus with one or more new mutations. But the existing vaccines are not completely effective in the case of the fast-moving Delta variant. Hopefully, vaccines elicit a broad immune response involving a range of antibodies and cells, even if the existing ones are somewhat less effective against the other variants than the ancestral strain of the virus. This alternatively indicates that changes or mutations in the virus cannot make vaccines completely ineffective. If this is the case, there are possibilities of evading lockdown, given that those who need vaccines against the virus are given, even if new and more powerful variants may appear in the future. At least, herd immunity may be developed by giving vaccines to a certain percentage of people.
The positive side is that the vaccine doses of AstraZeneca have been given to a considerable number of people. By this time, Bangladesh received 4.5 million doses of vaccines from Moderna of the United States and Sinopharm of China. Of course, the registration for vaccines is going to be started soon. Moreover, it has been declared that 10 crore doses of vaccines would arrive in Bangladesh by December this year. Since two doses are recommended, such a volume of vaccine doses can be given to 5 crore people. But an important question remains on whether this is sufficient for making sure that new infections and deaths will reduce to a greater extent through vaccinating a total of 6 crore people.
But, more importantly, another important question remains on whether it is possible to bring 10 crore vaccine doses in Bangladesh. This is obviously a good cause for concern since Bangladesh failed to bring a certain number of doses from India earlier, even if there are pacts and both countries have very good relations for decades. Of course, India is in unbelievably serious conditions for months because of the new variant, daily infections, and death rates. In such a situation, it may be difficult for any country to provide vaccines to other countries without meeting the needs of the people of its own. In this sense, India’s unwillingness to provide the rest number of vaccines doses does not unreasoned at least to some extent. But this is also indicative of the diplomatic failure of Bangladesh.
To realize the aim of developing herd immunity or, it is better to say, giving vaccine doses to all who need them, it is, thus, important to strengthen diplomatic efforts to secure the needed number of more effective vaccines from several countries. Of course, efforts are needed to bring vaccines earlier than the stated time – December 2021. This is because the earlier the vaccines are given the earlier the herd immunity may be developed or people may be protected from the virus, thereby reducing the chance of infections and deaths. If more times are taken, future lockdown – countrywide, locality or zone-wise – may also not be unlikely at all. To be successful, the foreign ministry, along with the ministry of health and family welfare, needs to be more prompt from now. In addition to traditional diplomatic efforts, Bangladesh can use Bangladeshis living abroad for diplomatic success.
Moreover, there is another concern which has been seen earlier. Many people are unwilling to take vaccines in Bangladesh. The question is whether people should be enforced to receive vaccine doses. It is notable that taking any medicine or treatment is voluntary and it is an accepted human right across the world. Since the pandemic is affecting with waves after waves and variants after variants, along with infecting and killing a considerable number of people of the country, even if the number of far less than that of more affected countries, some sorts of enforcement seems not to be unacceptable altogether. In this respect, most vulnerable groups and those who can spread the virus seem to be taken into account.
Unless herd immunity is developed with vaccines or naturally or vaccines are given to all of those who need and infections and deaths are significantly reduced, some sort of lockdown may be unavoidable. Since there is a possibility of the development of new variants and if the new variant turns to be more powerful, the possibility of lockdown is higher in the future too. Yet, lockdown should be as less as possible. Thus, more focus should be given to vaccines. Moreover, instead of countrywide lockdown, locality or zone-wise lockdown based on the infection rate is more desirable with some sorts of safety measures such as wearing masks, especially in highly gathered places. Obviously, the re-normalization of the ways of living at the quickest possible time should be the main aim of efforts.