Drivers of CNG-run auto-rickshaws are passing their days amid great miseries as they have been left without work amid the nationwide shutdown aimed at curbing the coronavirus.
Under the current situation, they sought government support for their survival.
Like other vehicles, three-wheelers also remain off the streets after the government shut all modes of communications across the country from March 26 alongside public holidays and closure of educational institutions in a bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Usually, auto-rickshaw drivers earn money on a daily basis to run their families and as they have no work currently, they have no income, too, putting them as well as their families in serious trouble.
Normally, an auto-rickshaw driver earns about Tk 500 a day after meeting his running expenses, including deposit to auto-rickshaw owner for the vehicle.
“We used to earn on a daily basis. But I’ve no income since the communications shutdown began on March 26 as I can’t take my auto-rickshaw to streets,” Julhas, a three-wheeler driver living in the city’s Mohammadpur Beribadh area, told UNB.
He said he has no money to spend to buy food and other essentials for his family.
Julhas said he has been living in a rented house in the area with four members of his family, including wife and two children. “If the lockdown is not withdrawn, we won’t be able to earn money to pay the house rent. Then the landlord will serve notice to vacate the house,” he said.
The similar story was shared by Ibrahim, another auto-rickshaw driver who lives in Mirpur-13.
He said he has been trying to contact local councillor of Dhaka North City Corporation to get some relief since the general holidays started. “But I failed to meet the councillor. Now, I’ve been running my family taking loan from a relative,” he said.
“I don’t know how long I can survive if the current situation persists for long,” Ibrahim further said in a frustrating note.
Leaders of Bangladesh Auto-rickshaw-Autotempo Transport Workers Federation (BAATWF), which represents three-wheeler drivers, said there are around 5 lakh drivers having valid driving licences across the country.
“The condition of all of us is almost the same. We don’t have money to run our daily life,” Golam Faruque, general secretary of the BAATWF, told UNB.
He said there are some 15,000 CNG auto-rickshaw drivers in Dhaka city while over 30,000 in Chattogram city.
As a BAATWF leader, Faruque said, he has contacted offices of deputy commissioners (DCs) of Dhaka and Chattogram for relief and financial assistance declared by the government under economic stimulus packages.
But both the DCs have informed them that if any relief or financial assistance is allocated for Dhaka and Chattogram cities, it will be distributed through city corporations and ward councillors, he said.
Faruque, however, said some of the DCs in other districts are responding to the request of their organisation.
“But they suggested that our district-level leaders contact UNOs and local union parishad chairmen for the relief,” he said, adding that they asked drivers to submit the lists of their names to them.
Appreciating Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for announcing the stimulus packages of Tk 72,750 crore to revive the economy, the BAATWF leader said if this amount is distributed among all the citizens, everyone will get Tk 4,041.
“If this fund is distributed properly through honest persons and good mechanism, no-one will be left behind,” he said demanding Tk 15,000 for every auto-rickshaw driver as support to survive in the current situation.
This can be done easily as all the drivers have registered driving licences. “The government can use BRTA data to help them at this difficult time,” Faruque said.
Meanwhile, BAATWF submitted a letter to the Prime Minister’s Office on Wednesday last seeking special allocation for all drivers and other workers engaged in his sector.
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic is forcing doctors and health officials around the world to perform beyond their remit, yet the number of patients and casualties are rising day by day.
While the number of remissions is still higher, many questions about COVID-19’s effect on the immune system remain unanswered - such as the possibility of its second coming, or getting ‘reinfected’, to a former host.
On April 8, China’s Wuhan began allowing people to step out from their homes for the first time in 76 days, following the lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus that first emerged there in late 2019.
However, a recent study revealed that in South Korea earlier this week, 91 people who received remission from the Coronavirus, were again reported to have tested positive.
Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) have sourced this information, saying the virus likely was ‘reactivated’ instead of the people being ‘reinfected’ after they got their remissions of the virus.
UNB File Photo
This second exposure of the virus may have been picked up because of possible flaws in the testing process when patients were discharged from the hospital the first time, according to the researchers. Studies have also suggested that the virus can remain in people long after their recovery, according to this latest data from the KCDC - which has thrown a new theory into the study that the virus can reactivate itself.
Earlier, research showed that about 14 percent of the former patients were diagnosed with the virus once more after being given the clearance. The news came as experts feared that China is facing a second outbreak due to the increasing number of imported cases.
“Any virus can mutate, and this new Coronavirus is reportedly mutating and changing its nature - so the risk of second exposure through its mutation or even reactivation on the host body is very possible,” Roushney Fatima Mukti, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at East West University, Dhaka, told UNB.
In the case of the novel Coronavirus, aka SARS- COV 2 or COVID-19, the infected patient can feel ill for about seven days with symptoms such as fever, tiredness, dry cough and sometimes chest pain. Study shows that about 80 percent recover from the disease without even needing any special treatment.
The disease, however, can be serious and even fatal for older people, and people with other medical conditions or comorbidities such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
Once a person gets infected by the Coronavirus, the host body starts producing proteins called antibodies to fight the infection. As these antibodies start to successfully curb the virus and keep it from taking over host cells, symptoms usually start declining and the patient feels better.
UNB File Photo
As a result, the immune system then completely destroys the virus in the system with the help of these antibodies. A person who is infected with and survives it with no long-term health effects or disabilities has "recovered", according to the medics.
Even after symptoms disappear, small amounts of the virus may remain in a patient's system, and they should stay isolated for an additional three days to ensure they have truly recovered and are no longer infectious to others.
Medically, the patient must be fever-free without fever-reducing (such as paracetamols) medications for three consecutive days, besides other signs of improvement including reduced coughing, before a patient can be said to have recovered.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided guidelines, in addition to these above-mentioned essential requirements, says that a person must test negative for the Coronavirus twice, with the tests taken at least 24 hours apart. If both the symptom and testing conditions are met, only then a person can officially be considered as recovered by the CDC.
"We don't know that for 100 percent certain because we haven't done the study, but I feel really confident that if this virus acts like every other virus that we know, once you get infected, get better, clear the virus, then you will have immunity that will protect you against reinfection," Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, USA, said in a tv interview last week.
Ultimately, what all need to understand about reinfection is that even if it does occur, the body is in a much better position to prevent any serious illness or disease to follow from it.
While further studies are needed to understand the effects of reinfection with new Coronavirus, experts recommend those who have been infected follow the hygiene steps outlined by CDC, which include staying away from people who are sick, frequently washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes.
Even the vaccines in development against SARS-COV 2, which are still mostly over a year to eighteen months away from widespread availability, are unlikely to be ‘sterilising’, i.e. prevent infection. They will cover a certain range of mutations, beyond which the vaccines would have to be updated, as is the case with the vaccine for seasonal flu. But they will provide a certain level of protection from disease that would prevent anything akin to a pandemic revisiting the world on its account.
The world has been in uncharted waters for much of 2020 already, trying to cope with a pandemic that has spread to every inhabited corner of the planet at an unprecedented speed. There are a number of things we have witnessed by now, or will witness in the days ahead, that will have been without precedent, certainly in our lifetimes.
The sight of the Kaaba, Islam’s holiest site, with not a single adherent of the Faith circling the perimeter or prostate before it, is not one many could even have conceived in their lifetime, yet we have seen it courtesy of the virus. Similarly, the Pope’s Easter address, delivered to not a soul in St Mark’s Square, will surely live on in people’s memories.
Bangladeshis are now passing such a defining moment. Many years down the lane, it is a fair bet that for a large part of the population, the pandemic will be remembered for having forced Pahela Baishakh, the Bangla New Year celebrations, online.
Since time immemorial, it has been a day full of colour and festivities, always with an emphasis on the Bangalee nation’s ties to the natural environment they occupy.
Daylong programmes commencing under the scorching heat of the summer sun have provided the eternal motif for the celebrations, for which all Bangalees wait all year-long in anticipation.
That certainly impacted in these hardest times, as the ongoing pandemic caused by COVID-19 brought changes into festivities around the whole world in order to avoid mass gatherings - as that spreads the risks of mass-contamination of the coronavirus. To cope with the situation, Bangladesh is welcoming the brand new Bangla year of 1427 through celebrations via social networking sites and digital platforms.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged everyone to stay at home and celebrate Pahela Baishakh in digital ways. Earlier, the Cabinet Division instructed authorities concerned to postpone all programmes of Pahela Baishakh to avoid mass gatherings.
Through the electronic media, including television channels and radio stations, along with social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram and YouTube - the nation is welcoming and celebrating this year’s ‘Digital Pahela Baishakh’ for the very first time ever.
Country’s leading cultural institution Chhayanaut, known for greeting the Bangla New Year through its traditional programme in every year under the banyan tree at the Ramna Park welcomed the year 1427 through a special collaborative programme with Bangladesh Television (BTV).
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has instructed for cancellation of all festivities of the traditional Pahela Baishakh celebrations in order to avoid mass gatherings during this crucial period of COVID-19 and suggested digital celebrations. Thus Chhayanaut, along with its broadcasting partner BTV, is welcoming 1427 through an hour-long special programme,” Chhayanaut President Sanjida Khatun said.
BTV, the regular broadcasting partner of Chhayanaut’s yearly New Year Celebration programme, aired the special programme in the morning.
Other television channels also aired the programme.
The programme did not feature any live performances in order to avoid the health risks of performers. It was the compilation of some of the best performances of Chhayanaut’s last three year’s traditional celebration programmes arranged at Ramna, along with a special video message of the institution’s President.
Apart from BTV, Chhayanaut also broadcast the programme at their YouTube channel ‘Chhayanaut Digital - Platform’.
Country’s renowned cultural body, Bangladesh Udichi Shilpigosthi, has always been actively arranging cultural programmes at Pahela Baishakh. This year, it is telecasting a special New Year celebration programme from 10am at its official Facebook page. Anyone from any part of the world can witness the performances live on Facebook.
As many charitable organisations are now helping their heart out to support the helpless people affected by the pandemic, some of them are arranging fundraising programmes online to collect the donations. Connect Bangla and Harvard Bangladesh Students Group is jointly arranging such an event titled ‘World's 1st Online Pahela Baishakh - Fundraiser for COVID-19’.
“‘World's 1st Online Pahela Baishakh' - the first-ever live stream event is bringing Bangalee people all over the world together to celebrate the Bangla New Year. Not only we’ll be celebrating Pahela Baishakh, but also be using this as an initiative to help families affected by COVID-19 in Bangladesh. By donating through our online fundraiser at http://tiny.cc/DonateBaishakh, anyone can help such families to receive food and other basic requirements. All our proceeds will be going to Bidyanondo Foundation (aka Ek Takay Ahar) and Food Package for Day Labour,” Tasriqul Islam Nibir from Harvard Bangladesh Students Group told UNB.
The event is taking place actively from 6am today to 1am Wednesday. Throughout the day, the organisers are set to showcase performances and arts submitted by registered artistes at the Facebook event page, and a live event will be hosted at night featuring artists and their live performances.
Prominent artistes, including Bappa Mazumdar, Fahmida Nabi, Dinat Jahan Munni, dancer Ridy Sheikh, Buet’s cultural organisation ‘Murchhona’, will perform at the Livestream while renowned recitation artists Shimul Mustafa, Sharmin Lucky, Farzana Karim and more will recite poems.
Aarong, the leading Bangladeshi brand, is hosting an event at its Facebook page. Azra Mahmood is hosting it live from 11am to 1pm with actors Rafiath Mithila, Afsana Mimi, singer Adity Mohsin and Sahana Bajpaie and again from 7pm to 9pm with social influencer Sakib Rashid, actor Iresh Zaker, Miss World Bangladesh Jannatul Oishee and singer Partha Barua. Fans can ask them questions through live chat at Aarong’s Facebook page where they can ask how the artistes are spending their time at home with their families, listen to favourite songs and can find out how fans can give back to those in need.
Event Management company Blues Communication is hosting a special broadcasting titled ‘Abar Hobe’ featuring pre-recorded performances of country’s renowned musical artistes at its Facebook page.
“As we’re unable to celebrate this year’s Pahela Baishakh through concerts, we’re airing this special programme at our Facebook page where fans can watch and enjoy previous performances of some of the most iconic artistes and bands of the country that has never been aired before on Facebook,” Rezwan Rahman, executive director of Blues Communication, told UNB.
From 12pm on today till 12am on April 15, the event is set to air previous performances of artistes, including Laisa Ahmed Lisa, Rezwana Choudhury Bannya, Adity Mohsin, Rob Fakir and Shofi Mondol and Arko Mukherjee, and bands, including Artcell, Warfaze, Arbovirus, AvoidRafa, Nemesis, Nagar Baul James and AB Blues.
Through all these and other digital celebrations, this year’s Pahela Baishakh is welcoming the New Year with good tidings. It is different and historic for sure, but this is the most suitable way to stay safe and flatten the curve of the pandemic, in order to welcome and celebrate the future New Year celebrations in sound health.
Good or bad, it’s all very different for sure.
Young people have joined the government, political parties and other social organisations to extend support to thousands of low-income people, especially those living from hand to mouth, during the government holidays to curb the transmission of coronavirus.
The low-income group is the worst sufferer as economic activities have almost come to a grinding halt after the government announced holidays since March 26. All non-essential services have been shut, leaving day-labourers and people with menial works without jobs, forcing many of them to go hungry.
Tanbir Hasan Shaikat, a member of Dhaka University Central Students’ Union (DUCSU), is one such individual who came forward in aid of the poor.
Shaikat has been providing food to around 200 people every day since March 25. He started distributing food among 50 marginalised people, living on city streets from March 24.
Dhaka University teachers, alumni and his friends helped Shaikat continue his support to people who have been the hardest-hit by the shutdown.
“I posted my activities on Facebook where I’ve been getting positive feedbacks from netizens. It’s really inspiring,” he told UNB.
Bayazid Sumon, founder of Nagarful (a social organisation), has taken a different initiative to help the low- and middle-class people who feel ashamed of asking for support in Chattogram city.
The young man first identified some families in need and sent food aid enough for seven days.
He said the people who received the food were very happy and curious as they did come out asking for help. But they are suffering because of the situation.
Coronavirus, first reported in China in December last year, has infected more than 1.8 million people and killed over 114,000 of them, according to Worldometer. Bangladesh has so far reported 621 cases and 34 deaths.
The economic impact of coronavirus has been far reaching. Bangladesh, like other countries, has been feeling the brunt.
“Poor people here are not only fighting against coronavirus but also against hunger. But we’re with them,” said Sumon.
Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf Hossain, founding president of Youth School for Social Entrepreneurs (YSSE) that they provided 100 families with necessary food and essentials for 10 days at Shawrapara and Dhamalkot slum areas on April 1.
He said they are delighted to have been able to help these marginalised people.
"We always want to do something for society. It’s our duty to help people who live from hand to mouth in this national crisis. We’ve already provided relief to a number of people in the first phase. Our campaign to help the people will continue until the crisis is over," he said.
As Bangladesh will see a sharp decline in export earnings following the suspension of all trade activities across the globe amid the coronavirus onslaught, economists have underscored need for devising proper strategies and an effective economic diplomacy to tackle the situation in the coming days.
They said the possible fall in export earnings as well as remittance inflow and revenue collection will greatly affect the country’s fast-growing economy and growth.
The experts urged exporters to look for new markets across countries that are somewhat stable or were affected less by the coronavirus.
They thanked Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for announcing a total of Tk 72,750 crore in stimulus packages to overcome the possible economic shock from the ongoing shutdown enforced due to the deadly Covid-19 outbreak and recommended quick and proper distribution of the amount to offset the impacts.
According to the data released by Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) on April 9, 1,123 factories reported that orders for 967.01 million pieces of clothes worth $3.11 billion export were either cancelled or held up affecting 2.24 million workers.
BGMEA President Rubana Huq said they lost the orders due to the impact of coronavirus on global markets. “We’re under huge pressure due to cancellation of orders one after another by foreign buyers. However, we thank our Prime Minister for announcing a stimulus package of Tk 5,000 crore for us,” she said.
Similarly, export earnings from other sector remained halted amid the existing situation.
Bangladesh’s export earnings dropped by 4.79 percent in the first eight months of 2019-2020 fiscal year compared to the corresponding period of the previous financial year, according to the Export Promotion Bureau (EPB).
The EPB data showed the export earnings dropped by $26.24 billion during July-February period against $27.56 billion in the same period of the last fiscal year.
The data also mentioned that the earnings fell short of the target by 12.72 percent estimated for the period.
For the month of February, the country’s exports earnings declined by 1.8 percent to $3.32 billion from $3.38 billion earned in the same period last year.
The export earnings from the apparel sector declined to $21.84 billion in July-February period against $23.12 billion during the last year. Of them, earnings from woven garments dropped by 5.88 percent, knitwear exports fell by 5.17 percent and earnings from home textile declined by 7.47 percent, the data showed.
The EPB data show export earnings from leather and leather goods fell by 9.04 percent to $631.89 million during the period against $694.72 billion during the corresponding period of the last fiscal.
However, country’s export earnings from jute and jute goods during the period increased by 24.45 percent to $697.63 million from $560.56 million and agricultural products like vegetable, fruits, spices and tea exports went up by 3.83 percent to $667.36 million from $642.73 million in the last fiscal year, as per the data.
Contacted, Research Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Dr Dr Khondaker Golam Moazzem told UNB that the existing negative trend in the country’s export earnings would further widen following the coronavirus pandemic.
“Our export earnings saw a nosedive for decline in global demand following the trade war. Amid the negative trend, it would further widen since various problems have arisen in local and international markets following the coronavirus pandemic,” he said.
He said Bangladesh has to take an effective economic diplomacy. “We have to look for new markets in African, European or American continents that are somewhat stable or affected less by the coronavirus,” he added.
Dr Mohammad Mahfuz Kabir, research director at Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS), said the demand of new products will increase in global markets during the coronavirus crisis. “These markets must be tapped to overcome the negative trend of export earnings.”
He also thanked the Prime Minister for announcing stimulus packages, saying: “We need to extend support to backward linkage companies who help boost the export earnings. The government should distribute the fund quickly and properly so that there’s no vast impact here,” he said.
Economist Mohammad Shahjahan Siddiqui said there will be a serious impact of coronavirus in the country’s export earnings if the situation persists for long. “If coronavirus situation takes a serious turn and persists for long, we can’t tackle it and there’ll be economic fallout,” he added.