Check out Global Voices' special coverage on the global impact of COVID-19.
Throughout the world, front-line workers – be they doctors, farmers, vendors, transporters, humanitarian workers or volunteers – play an important role in the fight against COVID-19. In Bangladesh, as in several other countries, such workers face difficulties at unprecedented levels, and also criticism.
It's 1 am in Dhaka, #Bangladesh. The night after Bangla New Year, পহেলা বৈশাখ। Our lab team is still in the lab processing # COVID19 samples. So proud of this dedicated team, but also so scared. Such mixed feelings. My heart hurts, constantly. pic.twitter.com/ya6I5j3yTH
– senjutisaha (@senjutisaha) April 14, 2020
It is 1 a.m. m. in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The night before the Bengali New Year, the lab team is still processing samples of COVID-19. I am so proud of this team of specialists, but I am also scared. So many mixed feelings. My soul hurts constantly.
Bangladesh has been in confinement since March 26 and has seen a large increase in the number of cases as a result of increased testing capacity in the country – the country has 2,144 infected and records 84 deaths as of April 18. However, there are concerns about the way tests are performed and also the safety of health workers. Many testing centers are not equipped with basic supplies and several workers do not have the necessary training.
It was reported that Mymensingh Medical college hospital has 6 disorder ventilators. Most of the 61 medical college hospitals in Bangladesh do not have ventilators, lacking of specialized doctors and nurse. Reason is https://t.co/LjkLm1tLe5 COVID patient will be treated.
– Matilal DebRoy (@DebroyMatilal) April 9, 2020
Mymensingh Medical University Hospital is reported to have six respirators that do not work. Many of the 61 medical university hospitals in Bangladesh do not have respirators, nor do they have specialist doctors or nurses. The reason and how patients with COVID-19 will be treated are unknown.
On April 15, the first front-line doctor treating patients with COVID-19 died in Bangladesh. As of April 18 inclusive, more than 65 doctors, hundreds of nurses and other health professionals were in quarantine in the country after being exposed to infected patients and asymptomatic people; 40 tested positive on COVID-19.
According to the Deutsche Welle report, several doctors have stayed at home during confinement and patients with other health problems have had difficulties accessing treatment.
In addition, control over medical professionals on social networks has been increased. Bangladesh has approximately one doctor for every 1847 citizens, and the sanitary facilities in rural areas are not as modern as those in cities.
As of March 7, when the first three cases of COVID-19 were reported in the country, health professionals have been expressing their concern about the lack of the corresponding individual protective equipment (PPE), exposing them to increased risks when in contact with patients with COVID-19, including asymptomatic patients.
Hope Bangladesh Govt. will realize the importance of PPE for doctors and other health workers, recognize their role and risk, stop threatening them. Salute to all health workers those who sacrificed life and those who are fighting to safe humanity.
– Syed Sultan (@SultanUAhmed) April 10, 2020
I hope that the Government of Bangladesh realizes the importance of PPE for doctors and other health workers, and recognizes their work and the risk they face; and stop endangering them. I salute all the health workers who sacrifice their lives and those who are fighting to save humanity.
Six employees of the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) tested COVID-19 positive, and all Institute officials, including the director, have reportedly been quarantined. Reports from across the country indicate that health professionals are sent home to quarantine, and some also question the feasibility and effectiveness of home quarantine in a country like Bangladesh.
On April 7, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina criticized doctors who did not show up for work during the pandemic, citing “they have a duty to do.” On April 11, the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) suspended six doctors from the Kuwait-Bangladesh Maitree Hospital, one of the hospitals designated to treat patients with COVID-19, citing “negligence.” Some reportedly refused to treat patients, while others did not report to work.
Meanwhile in #Bangladesh the health directorate suspended 6 doctors, said divisional cases will be filled against them for not treating # COVID19 patients! It's a difficult time but can we really force doctors, afraid of their own safety, to treat patients? Https: //t.co/JvOVHpGDuK https://t.co/irTMG1f60q
– Saad Hammadi (@saadhammadi) April 13, 2020
Meanwhile, in Bangladesh, the Health Directorate suspended six doctors, and will press charges for each individual case for failing to treat patients with COVID-19. It is a difficult time but can we really force doctors who fear for their safety to treat patients?
In addition, a doctor was arrested for posting an audio about rumors of the new coronavirus on social media.
As if the lack of resources were not enough, the stigma about COVID-19 has added to the difficulties faced by health professionals as well as patients with COVID-19. The country has been shocked by news of people who are prohibited from entering their homes or who have been kicked out of their homes by family members who have left them on the street. In some parts of the country, habitnates have protested to request the construction of emergency hospitals for patients with COVID-19 in their areas, and they claim to be afraid that the pandemic will reach their communities.
A netizen posted on Facebook the following:
ছোট বোন করোনায় আক্রান্ত, এ ক'দিন উর্দ্ধতন কতৃপক্ষের পরামর্শে হোম কোয়ারান্টাইনে ছিল।উপজেলা কমপ্লেক্সে সাসপেক্টেড কোভিড -১৯ রোগীর স্যাম্পল কালেকশন করতে গিয়ে সম্ভবত এক্সপোজড হয়, পরবর্তীতে রোগীর পজিটিভ আসে।সকালে পর থেকে পুরো পরিবার আল্লাহর কাছে সবর দিয়ে আছি, উনিই ফয়সালার মালিক। আপাতত তেমন শারীরিক অসুবিধা বোধ করছেনা, ওর হাজবেন্ডের (চিকিৎসক) স্যাম্পল ও কালেক্ট করে নিয়ে গেছে, ডিসি স্যার, সিভিল সার্জন মহোদয়ের পরামর্শে সে বাসায় থাকতে চেয়েছিল কিন্তু সম্ভব লোকজনের আনাগোনা দেখে সম্মানিত এলাকাবাসী লাঠিসোঁটা নিয়ে তাদের অভুক্ত অবস্থায় বাসা থেকে বের হয়ে যেতে বাধ্য করলো। আফসোস নাই, এমনি হওয়ার কথা ছিল, তাই-না?
My younger sister contracted COVID-19 and is isolated at home, according to the authorities' recommendations. Most likely, she was exposed by collecting samples from patients at the Upazila Complex. The patient tested positive. At the moment she has no physical difficulties, and her husband's sample was also collected to verify if she has coronavirus. Neighbors kicked the couple out when they saw they were wearing the PPE. No regrets, it's supposed to be like that, right?
The new insurance plan initiative for state employees, such as doctors, nurses, and law enforcement officers fighting COVID-19, announced by the prime minister on April 13, should incentivize healthcare professionals. Under the plan, the insurance covers all front-line workers, including health professionals, for a sum of between 500,000 taka (5,900 US dollars) and one million taka (11,800 US dollars) depending on their category. , and the amount is five times in the event of death.
The government has also rented hotel rooms for front-line doctors and nurses so that they do not expose their families to the virus.