Slamming the government for not announcing any roadmap on coronavirus vaccine distribution, BNP Secretary Generals Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir on Tuesday voiced doubt whether the common people will get the life-saving vaccine.
"We’ve repeatedly talked about unveiling a comprehensive plan and a roadmap on the vaccine (distribution). Nothing has been done yet in this regard. So, we’re not sure at all whether the ordinary people will get the vaccine,” he said.
The BNP leader said, "But it’s almost certain that the rich will get it. That’s why we think this government is an anti-people one. It’s been working against the interests of people by snatching their rights.”
Fakhrul made the remarks while inaugurating a 'free medical camp' at BNP’s Nayapaltan central office.
Opposing the government’s move to procure the vaccine from India through Beximco Pharmaceuticals, he said when different countries are giving free vaccine then Awami League is “taking extra one dollar per vaccine dose to ensure a good profit for its own people”.
Earlier, talking to reporters at Zia’s grave, Fakhrul said the government has completely failed to control the corona situation. “They’re now indulging in plundering and corruption in the name of vaccine procurement.”
He also feared that the vaccination drive may become a total mess because of the government’s corruption. “They won’t be able to do it easily."
BNP arranged the free medical camp at the party’s Nayapaltan central office from 10am to 2pm. marking the 85th birth anniversary of its founder Ziaur Rahman.
Ziaur Rahman was born on January 19, 1936 at Bagbari in Bogura. He founded BNP in 1978 and became the country’s seventh President. Zia was assassinated by a group of army officers at Chattogram Circuit House on May 30 in 1981.
The Indian government will provide 20 lakh doses of Oxford-Astrazenca Covid-19 vaccines (Covishield) to Bangladesh as a ‘gift’ on January 21.
A senior official confirmed it UNB on Tuesday afternoon.
Health Minister Zahid Maleque on Monday said Bangladesh will receive the first consignment of Oxford-AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine on January 25-26.
"As per the guideline of WHO, we will vaccinate those first who are working with risks. And elderly people will get more priority. People below the age of 18 will not get the vaccine, " the minister said.
The minister was addressing on "Meet the Reporters" event at Dhaka Reporters Unity.
"ICT department is developing an " app" to provide vaccine properly," he added
Zahid Maleque said the government is also discussing with Russia, China, and others for collecting more vaccines.
The minister also said they have already trained up to 4200 people to push the vaccine properly. " We have also made a high-powered national committee and also made a list of those who will get the vaccine first. Every journalist will get the vaccine as they work with risk," he also said.
The government on December 13 signed an agreement with Serum Institute of India Pvt Limited for procuring the Covid-19 vaccine.
Under the deal, Bangladesh will import three crore doses of SARS-Cov-2 AZD 1222 (Oxford/Astrazeneca Vaccine), (50 lakh in each month) from Serum Institute of India in the next six months.
Abul Bashar Mohammad Khurshid Alam, Director General (Health) of Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), and Nazmul Hassan Papon, managing director of Beximco, signed the agreement in presence of Health Minister Zahid Maleque in the city’s Mohakhali area.
“The government is procuring SARS-Cov-2 AZD 1222 (Oxford/Astrazeneca Vaccine) through Serum Institute and it’s proved safe during a trial in different countries. It’s also suitable in our weather,” said the Health Minister.
In the first phases, the government is procuring three crore doses of the vaccine while the rest will be imported in phases within six months, he added. “If everything goes well, then we’ll get the vaccine in mid-January next.”
Apart from AstraZeneca, the government is discussing with other companies for procuring their Covid-19 vaccines.
Also read: Pakistan approves Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun on Tuesday told Parliament that the government didn't take any decision to shut down the state-owned sugar mills, though the threshing of sugarcanes in six mills out of total 15 has been kept suspended for the current season.
"No sugar mill has been closed down. No decision has been taken to shut down sugar mills," he said replying to a tabled question from Awami League MP Ali Azam (Bhola-2).
The Industries Minister said there are 15 sugar mills under the Bangladesh Sugar and Food Industries Corporation (BSFIC).
Of these, only one mill -- Carew & Co (Bd) Ltd-- is profitable, while 14 others can't make profit, he said.
Sugarcane threshing in six mills was kept suspended for the 2020-2021 season, he added.
In reply to a separate question from the same MP, the Minister said the government is implementing two development projects to modernise the sugar mills in order to save the country's sugar industry.
The two projects are being implemented with GoB fund under BSFIC to modernise the sugar mills and make those environment-friendly entities.
The projects are BMR of Carew & Co (Bd) Ltd (1st revised) and Establishment of Effluent Treatment Plants in 14 Sugar Mills, said Nurul Majid.
Responding to another question from ruling party lawmaker M Abdul Latif (Chattogram-11), the Industries Minister said the contribution of industry (manufacturing) sector to the GDP increased at 24.18 percent in 2019-20 fiscal year from 17.90 percent in 2008-09 fiscal year.
The share of large and medium industries to the GDP rose at 20.22 percent in 2019-20 fiscal year from 12.71 percent in 2008-09 fiscal year, according to the statistics he placed in the House.
However, the contribution of small industries declined to 3.96 percent in the last fiscal year from 5.18 percent in the 2008-09 fiscal year.
Some 103,220 industrial units were set up in the last 11 years (Jan 2009-Nov 2020) with the support of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), said the Minister, adding that some 8.50 lakh jobs were created there.
A mobile court has demolished six illegal brick kilns in Sadar and Sripur upazilas of Magura .
Executive Magistrate Mashruba Ferdowsi, who operated the drive, said the drive was conducted following a court order.
Earlier, the brick kilns were fined and a case was filed. Then the court passed an order to demolish those, she said.
The brick kilns were operating without clearance from the Department of Environment, she added.
A research report by the DoE and the World Bank published in March ,2019 on the sources of air pollution in Bangladesh identified three main sources –brick kilns, fumes of vehicles and dust from construction sites.
“Brick kilns are responsible for 58 percent air pollution in the capital. Plans have been taken to shut [traditional] kilns currently in operation. We’re working to produce eco-friendly bricks,” Environment, Forests and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin had told UNB.
He said the government plans to stop burning bricks at kilns by 2025 and use block bricks to construct buildings under government projects.
Kiln owners have already been directed to produce 10 percent block bricks, the minister said, adding that it will be increased to 100 percent over time and the use of block bricks will gradually be made mandatory in private projects, too.
In a series of directives in January, 2020, the High Court had asked DoE to shut down illegal brick kilns within two months.
Also read:5 brick kilns fined Tk8 lakh in Sylhet
The DoE has been conducting drives against the illegal brick kilns for months now and slapping fines.
Dhaka, one the most polluted cities in the world, ranked the 3rd worst in the Air Quality Index (AQI) on Tuesday afternoon.
The air in Dhaka was categorised as ‘very unhealthy’ as the capital city had an AQI score of 247 at 12:23 pm.
When the AQI score is between 201 and 300, every city dweller is likely to be affected.
Delhi of India and Lahore of Pakistan occupied the first and second place in the list of cities with the worst air quality with AQI scores of 282 and 273 respectively.
The AQI, an index for reporting daily air quality, informs people how clean or polluted the air of a certain city is, and what associated health effects might be a concern for them.
In Bangladesh, the AQI is based on five criteria pollutants – Particulate Matter (PM10 and PM2.5), NO2, CO, SO2, and Ozone (O3).
Also read:Air Quality Index: Dhaka ranks 5th worst
Bangladesh has a subtropical monsoon climate characterized by wide seasonal variations in rainfall, high temperatures and humidity.
Generally, Dhaka’s air starts getting fresh when rain starts from mid-June. The air remains mostly acceptable during monsoon from June to October.
World’s most polluted country
Bangladesh topped the list of the world’s most polluted countries in 2019 for PM2.5 exposure, according to an IQAir AirVisual report.
Also read:Air Quality Index: Dhaka ranks 7th worst
The 2019 World Air Quality Report is based on data from the world’s largest centralised platform for real-time air quality data, combining efforts from thousands of initiatives run by citizens, communities, companies, non-profit organisations and governments.
It includes only PM2.5 (fine particulate matter) data as acquired from ground-based air quality monitoring stations with high data availability.
To track outdoor air quality, the report focused on the concentrations of two pollutants in particular: fine particle air pollution (particulate matter measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in aerodynamic diameter, or PM2.5) and ozone found near ground level (tropospheric ozone).
This assessment also tracked exposure to household air pollution from burning fuels such as coal, wood, or biomass for cooking.
Air pollution consistently ranks among the top risk factors for death and disability worldwide. Breathing polluted air has long been recognized as increasing a person’s chances of developing heart disease, chronic respiratory diseases, lung infections, and cancer, according to the report.
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), the air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.
Over 80 percent living in urban areas which monitor air pollution are exposed to air quality levels that exceed WHO guideline limits, with low- and middle-income countries most at risk, WHO estimated.