Bangladesh’s Response to COVID-19 and Disaster Risk Reduction
Bangladesh reported the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 on March 8, 2020. On March 23, 2020, the government declared a general holiday from March 26 to May 30, 2020, leading to the closure of government offices, private offices, and courts, and shorter operating hours for commercial banks. On April 8, the government restricted operations in Rohingya refugee camps to critical services and assistance only, citing the need to minimize risk within the camp setting. While the number of cases remains low, reluctance to be tested presents a challenge. On May 28, 2020, the authorities announced that closures and movement restrictions would be gradually lifted starting May 31, 2020. Civil servants have returned to their offices and public transport in Dhaka has resumed.
Beyond the domestic impact of the health crisis, the two main channels through which the Bangladesh economy will be impacted are remittances and exports of ready-made garments (RMG). Remittances represent over 5 percent of GDP (US$ 16.4 billion in FY 19), and a majority of migrant workers are based in the Gulf countries that have been affected by the abrupt decline in oil prices.
The government has set up the COVID-19 Emergency Operation Center to coordinate nationwide preparedness and response activities. The Diseases Control Unit of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) and the Institute of Epidemiology Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) have jointly started work. Eighteen hospitals have been prepared around the country for treating COVID-19 patients. Seventeen COVID-19 testing laboratories have been set up in various districts across the country. The government has allocated the initial amount of US $30 million to implement the plan in 9 months, during April-December 2020, to purchase COVID-19 test kits, medical equipment and supplies, and protective equipment for medical staff.
The government prepared a National Preparedness and Response Plan (NPRP) to prevent and control COVID-19, and to reduce its impact on the health, well-being and economy of the country. The Prime Minister is leading a National Advisory Committee for planning the coordination.
The plan focuses on preventing entry of COVID-19 case in Bangladesh from affected countries. The measures proposed include limiting human-to-human transmission, to help reduce secondary infections among close contacts and healthcare workers; preventing community transmission and amplification events; identifying, isolating and caring for patients early; communicating critical risk and event information to the communities and counter misinformation; and minimizing social and economic impact through multi-sectoral partnerships.
The plan mobilizes the entire health infrastructure to reach each citizen in every village through the existing public service delivery infrastructure. It seeks to strengthen surveillance, tracking, testing, isolation, caring and treatment efforts. Guidelines and standard operating protocols and procedures are being put in place as well.