PM calls for ‘global coordination’ to fight future catastrophe

Dhaka, 26: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday called for “global coordination” as well as “putting more policy and financial focus” to effectively deal with any future world catastrophe like the present coronavirus pandemic.“I will urge everyone to consider this crisis as a wakeup call for global coordination to effectively deal with any future world catastrophe and for putting more policy and financial focus on health issues like capacity building and achievement of health security for all,” she said in a letter to World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim said in the letter, the prime minister mentioned that Bangladesh, from time immemorial, believes in working together with all countries – regionally and globally as practiced by Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“We’re a strong believer in multilateralism. Since infectious disease and pandemics do not respect any border, we are further engaged regionally under the SAARC mechanism and globally through UN, and WHO to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 and to address this unprecedented crisis in the recent history,” she said.
The premier said Bangladesh is grateful to all the countries and organizations, which have extended their support to its health system. “We hope that WHO and international community will stand beside us to overcome this grave calamity,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina thanked the WHO director general for his relentless efforts and leadership during this crisis moments. “I’m confident that we will soon be able to leave behind this dark episode, unitedly,” she said.
The prime minister also thanked him for his comprehensive letter of March 23, 2020 which captured all the risks and the possible counter actions to effectively fight the global menace of COVID-19.
“Let me take this opportunity to thank WHO for their immediate pro-active actions and express our firm confidence in the role and actions taken by WHO in this regard,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also thanked the WHO director general for his continuous personal supervision and leadership to face this crisis together all over the world.
“Like you, we also firmly believe that we can prevent the spread of COVID-19 by limiting and then breaking the chains of transmission,” she added.
Spelling out her government’s measures to curb the lethal virus, the premier said all these efforts are now producing fruitful outcomes in terms of testing, isolation and quarantine verification.
Sheikh Hasina said the government had started working on this issue soon after its outbreak in China and developed a ‘National Preparedness and Response Plan for COVID-19, Bangladesh’ as the national contingency plan.
“It’s being constantly updated to address the evolving situations according to WHO guidelines under one ‘National Committee’ and another ‘Technical Committee’,” she said.
The premier added: “Like SDG, here we also have adopted ‘whole of the Government’ approach based on essential elements for example (i) Surveillance and laboratory support, (ii) Contact tracing and point of entry screening, (iii) Case management and infection prevention control, (iv) Risk communication and community engagement, (v) Logistics and procurement, for effective coordination.”
Sheikh Hasina said the government has taken steps to activate emergency protocols and harmonise national and international response management.
“In addition to national committees, we’ve formed committees at regional, district, sub-district and below levels involving the public representatives, health professionals, administration and others to provide continuous guidance to concerned people,” she said.
The premier said the government has taken stringent measures for ensuring social distancing – including closing of all educational institutions, shutting down all government and private offices, markets (other than the very essential ones) for 41 days and prohibited all sorts of gatherings even during this holy month of Ramadan.
“Members of the armed forces, para-military forces and Bangladesh Police have been working 24 hours to provide strong assistance to the civil administration to reach the last person in line in ensuring the implementation of these actions,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said according to strict WHO guidelines, the government is putting emphasis on extensive testing and isolation and it has expanded the testing facilities spread all over the country and procured sufficient amount of test kits.
“Although Bangladesh has got the number of affected cases under control considering the huge number and the density of the population, we have taken every preparation for any future adverse eventuality drawing upon the unfortunate experiences from different parts of the world,” she said.
The premier said the government has prepared dedicated isolation centres, separate hospitals all over the country and trained the health professionals in COVID-19 case management as per the management protocols.
“We have been successful to supply necessary PPE to the health professionals amid the global shortage in supply,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh is grateful for all the protocols and guidelines that WHO has developed and “shared with us for use and for adaptation”.
“We’re finalizing the UN suggested country response plan with local UNRC and UNCT to successfully deal with the future adverse impacts of COVID-19,” she added.
The premier said the government even cut short the much awaited inauguration ceremony of the Birth Centenary of the Father of the Nation to avoid mass gathering though the whole country waited for years for this event.
“Eradicating COVID-19 will be the best gift during the Birth Centenary of our Father of the Nation for our people and for the people of the whole world,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said simultaneously, massive awareness raising campaigns have been undertaken everywhere in Bangladesh through all available media especially through all forms of social media.
“I, myself address the people of the country regularly and my official engagements regarding combating the COVID-19 are telecast over the public and private media in real time to ensure transparency and to strengthen the confidence of the people,” she said.
The prime minister said popular cultural personalities, academicians, renowned doctors and other professionals, social workers and CSOs – all are participating in this campaign through dedicated programmes in the media.
Pointing out that 130 social safety net programmes are now ongoing, the premier said in addition to these programmes, the government has announced extra monetary and food support through local administration for the vulnerable segments of the population in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.
“I’ve already declared an $11.60 Billion package for the economy amounting to 3.5% of our GDP focusing more on the workers and similar persons from the weaker sections of the society,” she said.
The prime minister said the government is providing direct cash assistance to 50 million people, while 600,000 metric tons of food grains have so far been allocated for the poor and low-income group.
“We’re further working on other means to support to offset the future adverse impacts of this global crisis so that ‘nobody will be left behind’. May I mention that we have 1.1 million Rohingyas, who are also included in our overall strategy,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina said she is very proud of the people of the country for their resilience, dedication and their trust in her as well as the measures taken by her government.
“The government officials, private companies and individuals have come forward with cash and material support to fight this crisis jointly with the government,” she said.