Brig Gen Md Mostafizur Rahman
The COVID-19 pandemic is an international situation that will finally define 2020 and likely an entire generation around the world. At this time, the “Novel Coronavirus” has infected over 6.88 million people and killed over 399,013. The implications of this virus are far-reaching, extending well beyond the medical sphere and into the economy, diplomacy as well as national security all over the world. If someone had been watching the news, he likely has heard many politicians and analysts talking about the need for a “whole of government” or “full power of the government” approach to resolving the COVID-19, or Coronavirus, pandemic. But what does that mean for the people as individuals? Corona crisis came suddenly in this world with the single case being identified in China apparently in Wuhan Province in the month of December 2019. Though it came suddenly, it was not a surprise. At least for last few decades the security analysts, the health researchers were warning the world that a pandemic was due to come. Besides, number of articles, research papers, there were Hollywood movie ‘Contagion’ in 2011 and Korean TV serials ‘My Secret Terrius’ on the similar virus infections if not the same causing worldwide devastation. The virus was more like Corona Novel Virus as we call it today COVID-19. Those were fiction stories or a hypothesis twenty years before. But now it is reality, a hard reality. The world is yet to come close to see the end of it, neither it can be forecasted for a probable end. It is now quite clear that the ongoing Pandemic it is going to make a severe dent in the overall system of the universe affecting every sphere of human lives. . Governments all over the world are fighting this Coronavirus with all-out efforts with all their elements of National Power to stabilize the situation as quickly as possible and minimize loss in terms of human lives and economy.
In this fight with this Coronavirus with all-out efforts with all their elements of National Power. In a military or political setting, the term “whole of government” usually refers to the four instruments of national power that countries use to promote and sustain their national security and grand-strategic interests. Those elements are diplomatic, informational, military, and economic — collectively known by the abbreviation DIME in which Military is an important part of it. Military in any country is maintained to fight in the crucial moments. The definition of war against Corona deserved special definition as Humanitarian Approach to the military deployment.
The nationally-focused mitigation strategy considers and recommends actions reflecting input and involvement from, and benefits for, all national stakeholders involved in COVID-19 and its multiple effects on the national resilience. With the National Mitigation Strategy (NMS), there is an opportunity to be more intentional about setting resilience and mitigation policy priorities. The strategy will increase the ability of government departments and agencies to incorporate mitigation for disaster resiliency into plans for using resources and justifying budgets. However, this article will basically focus on the role of Armed Forces more particular Bangladesh Army to perform their role in the implementation.
How Much Warning Had We Really Received
As has been said in the beginning of this article, it was speculated much before that a Pandemic very much like Novel Coronavirus would come. It was due in a short time. By analyzing the previous outbreaks and time frame for last two decades, researchers were warning the global political leaders and governments to take the warning seriously. Dating back to antiquity, influenza pandemics have posed the greatest threat of a worldwide calamity caused by infectious disease. The 1918-19 pandemic was not. According to recent analysis, it killed 50 to 100 million people globally. Today, with a population of 6.5 billion, more than three times that of 1918, even a mild pandemic could kill many millions of people.
How was the World Ready for the Worst?
It allowed government officials, private-sector partners, and the community the opportunity to meet, think through potential dilemmas, purchase necessary equipment, and set up organizational structures for a 12- to 36-month response. Influenza-vaccine production deserved special attention. Pandemic-influenza preparedness is by nature an international issue. No one can truly be isolated from a pandemic. The business community can no longer afford to play a minor role in planning the response to a pandemic. For the world to have critical goods and services during a pandemic, industry heads must stockpile raw materials for production and pre-plan distribution and transportation support. Every company’s senior managers needed to be ready to respond rapidly to changes in the availability, production, distribution, and inventory management of their products.
Pandemic if Would Have Brokenout Immediately
If a pandemic would come suddenly there would be major shortages in all countries of a wide range of commodities, including food, soap, sanitizers, mask, paper, light bulbs, gasoline, parts for repairing military equipment and municipal water pumps, and medicines, including vaccines unrelated to the pandemic. It is no more a prediction as we experience as of now in 2020, it is a hard reality. A vaccine would have no impact on the course of the virus in the first months and would likely play an extremely limited role worldwide during the following 12 to 18 months of the pandemic. To counter a new strain of pandemic influenza that had never circulated throughout the population, each person would likely need doses for adequate protection. With today’s limited production capacity, that means that less than 500 million people-about 14 percent of the world’s population would be vaccinated within a year of the pandemic. Because the structure of the virus changes so rapidly, vaccine development could only start once the pandemic began, as manufacturers would have to obtain the new pandemic strain. Even if the system functions to the best of its ability, influenza vaccine is produced commercially in just nine countries: Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States. In the event of an influenza pandemic, they would probably nationalize their domestic production facilities, as occurred in 1976, when the United States, anticipating a pandemic of swine influenza, refused to share its vaccine. If a pandemic struck the world today, there would be another possible weapon against influenza: antiviral medicine.
Short Term- A Year from the Issuance of the Warning
Even if an H5N1 pandemic was a year away, the world must have planned for the same problems with the same fervor. Major campaigns must have been initiated to prepare the nonmedical and medical sectors. Pandemic planning should have been on the agenda of every school board, manufacturing plant, investment firm, mortuary, state legislature and food distributors around the world. There was an urgent need to reassess the vulnerability of the global economy to ensure that surges in demand could be met. Critical health-care and consumer products and commodities must have been stockpiled. Health professionals must have learnt how to better communicate risk and be able to both provide the facts and acknowledge the unknowns to a frightened or panicked population. If there was a year of lead-time before a pandemic like this, a vaccine could play a more central role in the global response. Although the world would still have a limited capacity to manufacture influenza vaccine, techniques that could allow scientists to get multiple doses from a current single dose may increase the supply. In addition to further research on this issue, efforts were needed to ensure the availability of syringes and equipment for delivering the vaccine.
Long Term-Ten Years from the Warning
If developed countries begin to transform the current system of influenza-vaccine production radically, influenza pandemic ten years from that time could have a much less devastating outcome. The industrialized world must initiate an international project to develop the ability to produce a vaccine for the entire global population within several months of the start of a pandemic. The initiative must have been a top priority of the group of seven industrialized nations plus Russia, because almost nothing could inflict more death and disruption than pandemic influenza. Unfortunately, more than two decades passed from the date of the warning, and the world failed to prepare to face such a havoc caused by Novel Coronavirus.
What Course would be Taken
The world must have formed a better understanding of the potentials for the emergence of a pandemic influenza strain. Given these developments, as well as the exponential growth in foreign travel over the past 50 years, an influenza pandemic could be more devastating than ever before. Although a pandemic like this could have not been avoided, its impact could be considerably lessened. They must have recognize the economic, security, and health threat that the coming influenza pandemic poses and invest accordingly. Each leader must have realized that even if a country has enough vaccine to protect its citizens, the economic impact of a worldwide pandemic would inflict substantial pain on everyone.
Current Situation in Bangladesh
The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Bangladesh in March 2020. The first three known cases were reported on 7 March 2020 by the country’s epidemiology institute, Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR). Infections remained low until the end of March but saw a steep rise in April and till the 1st week of June it has risen close to 3000 per day. It is the highest in Asia, ahead of Indonesia, with 186 percent. Initially due to the unavailability of testing kits testing was insufficient. However, with the relentless efforts of the Government, the test capacity has increased to over 15 thousand per day with more than 50 testing centres all over the country. So far, total 489,960 samples have been tested with approximately 20% detection of positive cases.
According to the World Health Organization, Bangladesh has 87520 confirmed infections to date and 1171 people have died from the Coronavirus. The Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh addressed the Nation over the television on 25 March 2020 and gave 31 points directives to the Nation for war against Corona. On 26 March, the Government first introduced a 10-day shutdown until 4 April. But till now the Government after evaluating the continuous rise of the Corona Positive case general holiday had been extended up to 30 May 2020 with a general ban on leaving Dhaka and inter district movement. Hospitals, kitchen markets, drug stores and other essential services, however, would remain open. The Government had repeatedly been asking people to stay home in efforts to contain the spread of the virus.
However, the Government is phasing Bangladesh out of lockdown by reopening offices and resuming public transport services on a limited scale from May 31 until Jun 15, making a balance of health and medical requirement and economic activities. Educational institutions, however, still remain closed till clear understanding of the situation is vivid. On 23 March 2020 the Government of Bangladesh decided to deploy Armed Forces where in Bangladesh Army to deploy in 62 districts and Bangladesh Navy in two coastal districts. On 24 March Bangladesh Army had the ground level coordination at the Divisional and District Level and started working since 25 March 2020. The Chief of Army Staff of Bangladesh Army issued a clear 16 points directives for its members to make a absolutely humanitarian approach in fighting the War againt the Coronavirus.
On 31 January, a special flight of Biman Bangladesh Airlines with special quarantine, three physicians, a nurse and required medical equipment on board flew to Wuhan, China to evacuate stranded Bangladeshi citizens. On 1 February, 312 Bangladeshi citizens stranded in Wuhan, China were evacuated and brought back to Bangladesh. Most of the Bangladeshis were students and PhD researchers at different universities in the Hubei province in China where their provincial Government launched multiple screening tests before allowing them to get on board the plane. Another batch of 152 Bangladeshis have returned home from Italy, which has been under lockdown following a massive Corona virus outbreak. Thought the flight operation remained suspended a good no of people, mostly the expatriates employed in Middle Eastern countries and visiting few other countries as tourists. Returnees were quarantined at Askona Hajj Camp under the overall responsibly of Bangladesh Army since 14 March 2020.
Travel and Entry Restrictions
On 22 January 2020, the authorities at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka reported that they had put the airports on alert to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in Bangladesh by screening travellers from China, where the virus had at that time infected nearly 300 people and killed six people. The airport claimed to turn on its thermal scanner to scan passengers to detect any infection in passengers travelling from China. Doctors at HSIA looked for fevers, coughs, breathing difficulties and sore throats. The country’s IEDR were to be notified of any passengers with symptoms for further examination.
Social Distancing Measures
On 17 March, when Bangladesh had 08 confirmed cases, the Government closed all schools, for the remainder of March. The Dhaka University was also closed for the same period. This reportedly increased tourist traffic at the beaches in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar, counteracting the government measure. On 23 March, when Bangladesh had 33 confirmed cases, the Government declared a ten-day nationwide holiday for the period 26 March – 4 April, ordering all public and private offices to be closed, with the exception for emergency services. People have been asked to practice social distancing and stay at home. No entry, no exit – until the situation improves, said the government directive.
Institutional Quarantine Centres
Government assigned Bangladesh Army to arrange institutional Quarantine Centres (QC) in Dhaka and all other places under the overall management of the Army. AccordinglyBangladesh Army took over the full responsibility of Hajj Camp at Askona on 14 March 2020 and gradually expanding to BRAC Learning Centre at Askona and Diabari at Uttara. Moreover, Bangladesh Army established QCs at Bangladesh Public Administration Training Centre (Savar), at Jhikargacha (Jessore). Furthermore, all the Bangladesh Army Divisions established QCs for meeting of the National requirements.
What is the World Economic Forum doing about the Corona Virus Outbreak?
A new strain of Coronavirus, COVID-19, is spreading around the world, causing deaths and major disruption to the global economy. Responding to this crisis requires global cooperation among governments, international organisations and the business community, which is at the centre of the World Economic Forum’s mission as the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation. The Forum has created the COVID Action Platform, a global platform to convene the business community for collective action, protect people’s livelihoods and facilitate business continuity, and mobilize support for the COVID-19 response. The platform is created with the support of the World Health Organization and is open to all businesses and industry groups, as well as other stakeholders, aiming to integrate and inform joint action. As an organization, the Forum has a track record of supporting efforts to contain epidemics.
Impacts on Bangladesh
COVID-19 Threatens to Cause a Humanitarian Crisis
Despite the presence of a large Bangladeshi diaspora in Europe, the Government also took the bold step of suspending all flights from Europe. Learning from its East Asian neighbors including South Korea and Singapore, the Government launched an aggressive awareness campaign through national mobile phone operators. This has been complemented by private-sector cooperation, with the Government launching more than 500 telephone hotlines and cross-promoting private service providers on its platform.
The Economic Threat
The response so far is admirable, yet this pandemic also poses an economic and humanitarian crisis. The Prime Minister initially announced an emergency stimulus package of $600 million on 25 March, which on 4 April was enhanced significantly to $8.5 billion. According to the forecast released by the Economist Intelligence Unit on 26 March, the global economy is expected to contract by -2.2% in 2020. These effects are expected to be more pronounced in major G20 economies, such as Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom and the US – all countries that are major markets for Bangladesh’s most vital tradeable goods: readymade garments. With lockdowns currently imposed across Europe and North America, even in the best-case scenario, it will take at least until mid-June for market confidence to be restored in these economies. The implication is that nearly six million workers in Bangladesh’s formal sector – which is largely manufacturing – will be without steady work for an extended period.
What More Needs to Be Done
The Prime Minister rightly identified this as a challenge and her decision to distribute food aid through Bangladesh’s existing social safety programs such as the Vulnerable Group Feeding and Vulnerable Group Development for six months must also be welcomed. The Prime Minister has also donated $30 each of 50 lakh selected families which was transferred electronically. Honourable Prime though donated BDT 2500 each to 50 lakh families for the Eid. Taking such an meticulous step would mean that Bangladesh would have to forego its usually prudent and disciplined fiscal policy of maintaining its budget deficit within 5% of GDP. With a low debt-to-GDP ratio, Bangladesh has enough fiscal headroom to adapt an expansionary approach in the short run to fight off the economic and humanitarian aspect of this crisis.
Threat to National Security
It is believed that the world has not faced such worrisome situation after WWII and for Bangladesh; the Nation has not encountered such a perilous situation after our glorious War of Liberation of 1971. While the political leaders all over the world are struggling to arrest the pandemic situation, some opportunity seekers may try to make an evil design to destabilize the world. There are many undercurrents likely to go on to take advantage of the situation. People are trying to make money of the poor, misappropriating relief material, panicking the people by spreading rumours or even by smuggling drugs. Threats as such are not only limited within boundary only. Threats may come form external nexus also. Since the Corona Issue is still active and the end state is yet far away to be visualized. Bangladesh needs to monitor the situation with a cool head and prepare the contingency plan very prudently. As it is seen during this ongoing Corona crisis, the country also experienced the cyclone ‘Amafan’ which caused considerable damages to huge crops and lives of the people. Besides, the internal law and order, border violations, emergence of extremist groups etc may also require attention.
Immediate Impacts of Coronavirus
•Closure of Industries
Due to the lockdown or general holidays declared by the Government of Bangladesh, all kinds of industries had been closed atleast initially. Though few of the garments in the production of PPE and pharmaceutical industries were allowed for production, most of the industries in different sectors were shutdown.
•Failure to Meet the Delivery Datelines to Foreign Buyers
Since the Corona came suddenly, most of the garments had to be closed without any prior warning. As such many of the consignments were failed to be delivered to the international buyers.
•People Who Used to Live On Daily Labours Had No Income
People who used to live on their daily income faced tremendous difficulties in earning their livelihood. Though the Government responded immediately with special focus to these people there were difficulties in reaching out to these people. However, in the last two months hardly there were any report that someone starved.
•Business Institutions Liable For Heavy Damages Due to Their Spoilage of Goods
In the markets, warehouses, many products are likely to be deteriorated for a long time lockdown in the warehouse or market place due to prolonged storage.
• Complete Closure of Public Transport Service and Aviation Industries
The general holidays and lockdown had to be imposed all over the world without much warning. It is assumed that many of the sophisticated equipment such as aircraft, big machines, and so on and so forth are likely to get damaged.
• Over Loaded Medical Sectors
• Testing Facilities
Five weeks after the detection of the first COVID-19 case in Bangladesh, the IEDCR had only tested 11,223 people, constituting approximately 68 tests per million populations. It should be noted that in the first 3 weeks after the detection of the first COVID-19 case in Bangladesh, the IEDCR was the sole diagnostic facility in the country of 160 million people, and the daily testing rate remained below 100 per day. The health authorities of the country ultimately decided to expand its testing numbers from 03 April 2020. Currently, there are 50 labs across the country working on testing probable/referral cases of COVID-19, and a few more labs are being established in different districts.
• Coping With Mental Stress Due to COVID-19
Fear and anxiety about the pandemic are causing overwhelming stress for everyone . While receiving mixed messages piles up the stress, sharing the real facts and understanding the actual risk reduces the stress. Moreover, this helps the authorities to organize better and manage the crisis. Social activists, television and print media, social workers, and religious and political leaders should come forward to help in the dissemination of scientifically factual information on nCoV-2 and COVID-19 among the mass population of Bangladesh. For instance, the Imams of each mosque could play a vital role in fighting this extraordinary crisis in Bangladesh.
• Hospital Facility
After the outbreak of Coronavirus in Bangladesh, beside other measures, the Government immediately designated Kuwait Maitree Hospital and Kurmitola General Hospital for COVID-19 Patients in Dhaka. A number of private hospitals and clinics in Dhaka on said Coronavirus treatment at their facilities was impossible and they were reluctant to take the cases as they lacked facilities in treating the virus. Referring to the safety of other patients and a lack of trained medical personnel, the hospital authorities said novel coronavirus or COVID -19 treatment at private hospitals was too risky. Many of the most modern hospitals displayed their inability to treat Corona patients due to the fact that would treat critical patients like cancer, kidney dialysis and cardiac patients who have low immunity. Coronavirus treatment at these hospitals is not possible for the sake of current patients. After the initial shock the Government rearranged many more hospitals such as; Dhaka Medical Collge Hospital, BSMMU etc for the treatment of Covid-19 patients. Combined Military Hospital (CMH), Dhaka and all the CMHs under the direct guidance of the Respected CAS of Bangladesh Army appeared to be the symbol of trust and confidence for treating Covid-19 patients following latest global protocols.
• Management in the Health Sector
Until the outbreak of Coronavirus, most people here were talking about the dearth of medical facilities for treating non-communicable diseases against the backdrop of continuous rise in the number of heart, kidney and cancer patients. Concern about the country’s preparedness for handling any major outbreak of any communicable disease was not very vivid. Coronavirus outbreak has exposed everybody to the grim reality—Bangladesh, like many other countries, was not necessarily prepared to face a major outbreak of a communicable disease. In the face of sudden and rapid increase of COVID-19 all over the world as well as in Bangladesh, it was not possible to know what would be unfolded in the coming weeks. The prevailing situation had opened the eyes that – the country’s health sector needed greater attention in future days.
• Closure of the Capital Market
While the Capital Markets were tremendously affected due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus, both DSE and CSE have been completely shut down with the declaration of Holidays. This had affected already bearish capital markets.
During any emergency, national unity is achieved. COVID-19 has had undeniable and horrific consequences on people’s lives and the economy. With sickness, death and unemployment rates soaring almost everywhere on our planet, it is easy to despair. Notwithstanding the gruesomeness of this situation, there are some outcomes that could have a long-term positive impact on the planet and humanity as well as on Bangladesh.
• National Unity
With the call of the Honourable Prime Minister, the Nation with all its elements have come forwards to fight Corona Virus combined. Doctors, Civil Administration, Law Enforcing Agencies, Armed Forces, especially Bangladesh Army all are working in unison.
• Reinvigorating the National Systems
Bangladesh is fighting the Coronavirus like all other countries of the world. Despite Bangladesh had made definite progression in the economy and developments but had not been ready to meet such a crisis of such high magnitude. Nevertheless, Bangladesh quickly evaluated the situation under the Leadership of the Honourable Prime Minister like the Father of the Nation did in 1971. Bangladesh has always been proved to be a land of resilience had done the same. When the initial shock had been absorbed, the elements of national power integrated together for the common purpose of fighting with the Covid19. By far Bangladesh fought it well though further more to go.
• Integrating the Elements of National Power
It is very natural that in the case of any calamities or disaster, any country will use all its elements of power in hand to fight it back, such as fighting with Corona. If we try to define elements of power, we use the abbreviation DIME, in which Military is an important part of it. Military in any country is maintained over the years just to fight in the crucial moments. Thought the definition of war against Corona deserved special definition as a “Humanitarian Approach” of the military deployment. In a military or political setting, the term “whole of government” usually refers to the four instruments of national power that countries use to promote and sustain their national security and grand-strategic interests. Those elements are diplomatic, informational, military, and economic — collectively known by the acronym DIME.
• The Environment
The first positive aspect of COVID-19 as result of general shut down, is the effect on the environment. Carbon emissions are down globally, and with manufacturing and air travel grinding to a halt, the planet has had a chance to rejuvenate. China recorded an 85 per cent increase in days with good air quality in 337 cities between January and March. With tourists gone from Italy, the long-polluted canals of Venice now appear clear as fish and other wildlife start returning. Elsewhere, wildlife is also reappearing in other major cities and the biodiversity is slowly beginning to return in various parts of the world.
The Coronavirus is also raising hopes of fewer battles and less conflict, resulting in increased levels of peace. The United Nations called to end all wars in the face of COVID-19 as the world confronts a common enemy: “It’s time to put armed conflict on lockdown,” stated Secretary-General António Guterres. So many businesses have had to reinvent themselves with a new ‘business as unusual’ philosophy. And according to the ABC, a ceasefire was declared by the Saudis fighting Houthi rebels in Yemen. Although there are many places in the Middle East where war persists, a stronger lockdown could lead to less violence in these countries too.
A third positive outcome is a rejuvenated sense of community and social cohesion. Self-isolation challenges us as social animals who desire relationships, contact and interaction with other humans. However, people all around the world are finding new ways to address the need for interconnectedness. In Italy, one of the worst-hit countries, people are joining their instruments and voices to create music from their balconies. People are leading street dance parties while maintaining social distancing. People are using social media platforms to connect, such as the Facebook group The Kindness Pandemic, with hundreds of daily posts. There is a huge wave of formal and informal volunteering where people use their skills and abilities to help.
COVID-19 is a major market disruptor that has led to unprecedented levels of innovation. Due to the lockdown, so many businesses have had to reinvent themselves with a new ‘business as unusual’ philosophy. This includes cafes turning into takeaway venues (some of which also now sell milk or face masks) and gin distilleries now making hand sanitisers. Many businesses have had to undergo rapid digitalisation and offer their services online. Some could use this wave of innovation to reimagine their business model and change or grow their market.
• Corporate Responsibility
Coronavirus is driving a new wave of corporate social responsibility (CSR). The global pandemic has become a litmus test for how seriously companies are taking their CSR and their work with key stakeholders: the community, employees, consumers and the environment. Home-schooling is becoming the new way of learning, exposing many parents to what their children know and do. Companies are donating money, food and medical equipment to support people affected by the Coronavirus. Others are giving to health-care workers, including free coffee at McDonald’s Australia and millions of masks from Johnson & Johnson. Many are supporting their customers, from Woolworths introducing an exclusive shopping hour for seniors and people with disabilities to Optus giving free mobile data so its subscribers can continue to connect.
• Reimagined Education
The sixth positive outcome is a massive transformation in education. True, most of it was not by choice. Silver linings amid the suffering: Professor Debbie Haski-Leventhal believes a newfound sense of gratitude for freedoms we take for granted and a global trend in thanking health workers who are at the frontline are among the positives to come out of the crisis. We are globally involved in one of the largest-scale experiments in changing education at all levels. Similarly, universities are leading remote learning and use state-of-the-art solutions to keep students engaged. Some universities are using augmented and virtual reality to provide near real-life experiences for galvanising students’ curiosity, engagement and commitment and for preparing students for the workplace.
Finally, the seventh gift that COVID-19 is giving us is a new sense of appreciation and gratefulness. It has offered us a new perspective on everything we have taken for granted for so long – our freedoms, leisure, connections, work, family and friends. We have also learned to value and thank health workers who are at the frontline of this crisis, risking their lives every day by just showing up to their vital work. This sense of gratefulness can also help us to develop our resilience and overcome the crisis in the long-term. If we ignore them, all of this becomes meaningless. It will be up to us to change ourselves and our system to continue with the positive environmental impact, peace, connectedness, innovation, corporate responsibility, reimagined education and gratitude.
Impacts of Coronavirus in General
A Financial Crisis in Emerging Markets
Going into the COVID crisis, EM economies were not as healthy as they could have been – economic growth was already slowing, and they were highly leveraged. In the initial weeks of the global outbreak of COVID, capital quickly began to flee EMs, as investors looked for safety in dollar-denominated assets. Economic growth there is taking – and will take – a big hit from a COVID-induced domestic economic slowdown in those countries and from the dramatic slowdown in the world economy.
Growing Political Instability
The longer COVID lasts, the more likely we are to see a surge in political instability around the world. Political instability is not healthy for the world economy and not healthy for the eventual economic recovery from the pandemic. World’s events are likely to impact on Bangladesh economy.
A Crisis in Conflict Zones
These areas, from a COVID-19 perspective, are at significant risk. It is the overlap between conflict states with an outbreak of the disease and conflict states where migration could put us or our allies and partners at risk. I would add one more country to this crisis list, although it does not meet the strict definition of a conflict state because it is not at war now and was not at war recently, but it does meet the spirit of the definition – and that is Venezuela, with Colombia, the destination for refugees.
Reinforcing the Already-Existing Trend to Authoritarianism
The first is a perception that authoritarian governments have been better able to deal with the crisis than have democracies. Second, anti-democratic leaders will try to take advantage of the crisis to accrue power all over the world.
Taking proactive measures to increase economic resilience, enhancing capacity to deal with situations associated with the pandemic and reducing the vulnerability of farming communities is crucial to sustaining food security and socio-economic development. Closing of transport routes, restrictions and quarantine measures, shortage of labour, and spikes in product prices are obstructive for fresh food supply chains and might also result in increased levels of food loss and waste. In the period of lockdown, people visit food markets less often, affecting their food choices and consumption. Agricultural restrictions hinder trade and mobility of commodities, including food, feed, and input supplies, as suspending nationwide transportation might affect farming and food trade. Active measures are necessary for ensuring reprieve from trade restrictions to keep food, feed, and input supplies.
Impacts of Coronavirus on Bangladesh
On a larger scale, we may have to face an economic slowdown in the short term while there might be a recession in the long term. On April 5, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina unveiled a Tk 72,750 crore stimulus package, including the previously declared Tk 5,000 crore package, to address the economic impacts of the coronavirus outbreak. The Government could take both fiscal and monetary measures to combat the novel Coronavirus. The monetary actions would be lowering the repo rate and reduction of the Cash Reserve Ratio to increase the money supply to the economy.
The term “service sector” refers to an economic sector that, unlike agriculture and industry, produces no goods, but provides a service that satisfies a need such as education, health, finance, government, transportation, tourism and trade are service sectors. Economic stagnation is having a terrible effect on lives and livelihoods of those whose incomes hover near poverty level. Large segments of the population – the poor and low-income people – are employed in the informal sector and do not have stable incomes. Around 34 million people, or 20.5 percent of the population, live below the poverty line, according to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics data. Poverty rate in Bangladesh may rise to 40.9 percent if Covid-19 causes 25 percent fall in family incomes, according to the South Asian Network on Economic Modelling (SANEM) estimate based on the BBS’s income and expenditure survey data. Despite challenges, there are extraordinary opportunities for addressing longstanding inequalities in the areas of access to health and basic services, financial products and digital economy, as well as social security for the informal workers. What is required now is a new deal that guarantees social protection against negative economic consequences of the pandemic, and that builds a stronger social safety net framework for the future.
Capital market being most sensitive where general investors have been tremendously affected by the coronavirus situation.. The global coronavirus pandemic, which has led to economic stagnation all over the world, will likely see Bangladesh’s capital market undergo further corrections. Economists have recommended injecting more funds to revive the economy, waiving interests and slashing corporation taxes. In the capital market, a correction is a 10 percent drop in stocks from their most recent peak, which often signals that investors have turned to be more pessimistic about the markets. But it does not necessarily mean that stocks are heading even lower. However, if prices drop by 20 percent or more, it is then called a bear market. Frightened investors have lost trust in the market because of the coronavirus outbreak, which caused further disruption for companies and the global economy that has impacted the country’s bourses and the world’s leading stock markets. The Stock Exchanges have already urged the regularatiry authorities and the Government for some incentive packages.
Impact of Coronavirus on the Livelihood
Similar to other global counterparts, Bangladesh opted for official lockdown from 26th March 2020 as a measure to contain the spread and restrict communal transmission. While much of the service sector can take advantage of work-from-home arrangements, the lockdown has obstructed the livelihood of 85% of the country’s working population currently employed in the informal sector. Lack of proper employment benefits and compensation structure for these workforce members make them the most vulnerable group during this national economic shock. The majority of these workers belong to the low income and lower middle income brackets and most of them make just enough to cover their living expenses while residing in the urban peripheries. Hence, a loss in employment or income would directly impact the livelihood of these urban LIC and LMIC workers, exposing them to the detrimental effects of this economic downfall and pushing them to the point of no recovery. On the topic of sustenance, almost one in every three does not have the financial means to support their families in the immediate term. 44% of them having enough savings that will help them survive the next few weeks and only 14% may survive for a month considering the current financial conditions. Though the Government ensured an unprecedented supply of money and food grains in different forms to the general people still proves insufficient as the general holiday situation continued for almost three months at a go till 31 May 2020.
Declining Incomes across the Board Are Putting Pressure on Household Spending
Across the board, households had seen a 29% decline in income due to Covid-19, and the largest drop in income was noted in Dhaka Metro area at 34%. 42% of respondents indicated that Covid-19 had not impacted their incomes at the time of study and none had indicated an increase in their household income since the Covid lockdown. Out of an average BDT 17,273 spending per household, food and rent made up the largest spending categories. Residential service workers and Industrial and Technical workers were the least regular savers but at the same time, they had to remit a significant portion of their income, making the extended families of these two professions in rural areas particularly vulnerable to financial shocks emanating from COVID-19. Large fluctuations were seen in the pattern in food spending, where 40% of households had reported an increase in food spending after Covid-19, attributed to inflated food prices and 32% other households who had reported lower expenditure of food which was a conscious decision arising from the consequences of reduced household income.
Heading to Home Districts
Retreating to their home districts, which is usually the solution when the going gets tough, is no longer an option for most as a combination of the transport lockdown, uncertainty over the resumption of workplaces, lack of alternative income opportunities back home and better hopes of receiving aid in Dhaka. It was found that among households who recently lost all of their household income, one third of families had already moved back to their home district. As a whole, service sector workers indicated the least willingness to migrate in the short term.
Lockdown is Difficult to Sustain
In a survey on the topic of sustenance, almost one in every three respondents reported not having the financial means to support their families in the immediate term. 44% of respondents reported having enough savings that will help them survive the next few weeks, and only 14% respondents reported that they might survive for a month considering the current financial conditions. An overwhelming majority of households were found to be aware of the correct preventative measures of COVID-19, highlighting the combined role of the media, Government and word-of-mouth in propagating information. It was found that only 19% of households had been reached through some in-kind support, with the remainder staying out of support safety nets. Where individuals received support in greater Dhaka, individual donors were by far the largest source of support for the low-income community members, which is in contrast to Dhaka Metro, where most of the support came from Local MPs.
The Government and Development Sector Should Step Up Their Role
At a time when households have lost approximately a third of their earnings and are outspending their incomes, government assistance is more important than ever to help such households stay afloat. Alternately, Government’s payment channels, via DFS, could be expanded to ensure direct cash assistance for beneficiaries. Given the breadth of the government support stimulus, the Government should take steps to protect blue collar jobs by encouraging companies to retain their employees, in lieu of receiving benefits from the stimulus package. Micro Enterprises are particularly vulnerable in this time of crisis and in order to survive, they should be directed towards support services for capital replenishment, particularly the MSMEs who are outside the purview of the banking system.
Impediments to the Overcoming of the National Crisis
In the conduct of the all-out efforts of all stakeholders in the country and society, there are also some challenges. These challenges may identified early and take appropriate measures to overcome at the earliest. Fortunate for us that our Prime Minister has foreseen all probable situations and evaluated by the tools available and has taken appropriate decisions to overcome any hurdles to protect the people and protect the country following the footstep of her father, the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Few of the issues are follow:
Though the Government has taken a stern stand against corruption during this pandemic situation but still there are tendencies on the part of few people in regards to the misappropriation has been noticed. Aggrieved people especially deprived to access to sufficient livelihood may resort to small little corruption.
Probability of a Famine- Not due to the Shortage rather Mismanagement
The coronavirus pandemic is developing in the shadow of famine. The combination would be deadly. One of the hard lessons of the COVID-19 crisis has been that nations tend to learn pandemic preparedness through hard lessons. But the world now faces a trial for which there is no recent precedent. Waiting for the accumulation of hard experience in this case would result in a vast human tragedy. In parts of the developing world, the COVID-19 pandemic is developing in tandem with famine.30 And the combination would be a much more ambitious and efficient killer than COVID-19 alone. As deaths caused by Coronavirus around the world continue to rise, the World Food Programme (WFP) has warned that the world faces a possible “hunger pandemic” as the number of people in need of food could almost double this year. At the end of 2019, 135 million people were living with “acute hunger”. But with many countries around the world enforcing quarantine, that number is likely to rise to 265 million, the WFP says.
The Dual Risks of Natural Hazards and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is a complex global crisis without contemporary precedent. In just about every country around the world, the pandemic response is taking up the bulk of resources, expertise, time and effort. But, how would people and systems cope if a major natural hazard, like an earthquake or a tropical cyclone, occurs while the COVID-19 pandemic continues? Sitting astride a river delta at the bottom of the Himalayan range, the country is fighting a longstanding battle against the impact of climate change and currently hosts the world’s largest refugee camp along its southern border. South Asia in general and India and Bangladesh have already endured a major cyclone ‘Amfan’ during this ongoing Corona crisis. A second Cyclone ‘Nishorgo’ also has been experienced in this Region. Moreover, Dengue appears to be a great menace during the period of June-September in Bangladesh.
Labour Market /Reduced Remittance
Amid the slump in export earnings, experts say another big shock lies ahead for Bangladesh economy as its remittance inflow, the lifeline for many rural families, is likely to shrink significantly in the coming months as a coronavirus fallout. Almost all the destinations of Bangladeshi migrant workers from where they send money back home are grappling with coronavirus prevalence, halting economic activity with the closure of most business establishments and shops, leaving the wage earners at lurch and their incomes dwindling. At the same time, many of those staying abroad may face problem to get work due to the slowdown in the economic activity, bringing down the revenues of the wage earners. The remittance inflow is likely to fall as many wage earners have returned home in the wake of coronavirus outbreak across the globe. Over 10 million Bangladeshis who stay in different countries remitted $18.32 billion last year swelling the country’s foreign reserve. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has long been the largest source of remittances, followed by the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Libya, Iraq, Singapore, Malaysia, the US and the UK.
Likely Impacts of COVID-19 on Some More Internal Issues
* Likely Fall of Human Development Index of Bangladesh
* Economic Development may face hindrance
* Rohingya Issue may deteriorate
* Rumours may sometime be a disturbing concern
* Global Health Security may raise an issue, etc.
Mitigation Strategy for Bangladesh and Role of Armed Forces
National security is the requirement to maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic power, diplomacy, power projection and political power. It encompasses a broad range of facets, all of which impinge on the nonmilitary or economic security of the nation and the values espoused by the national society. Accordingly, in order to possess national security, Bangladesh needs to possess economic security, energy security, environmental security, etc. Security threats involve not only conventional foes such as other nation-states but also non-state actors such as violent non-state actors, narcotic cartels, multinational corporations and non-governmental organisations. As understood, after the pandemic of COVID-19 will be over, the country will need to assess the damages immediately, the process of which might have started already or need to do it right now and find how much dent it could create to the national capacity. Fortunately enough, during the beginning of this situation, Bangladesh was standing on a very strong economy of its level of expectation. Bangladesh, as a nation has always exhibited strong resilience and hopes it will again.
Corona Mitigation Strategy for Bangladesh
* End State/Goals
The Coronavirus is contained and diminished with minimum casualty of life, food security and social safety net are implemented, National Borders are protected, social security is in place, law and order under full control of the Government and all sectors of the country regain momentum including that of medical and education.
*l Ways/Policy Actions
Formulating and implementing the Policy and actions towards achieving the political stability, economic emancipation, sound health sector service and ensuring national security of Bangladesh.
Political Leadership, Growth of GDP, Agriculture, Efficient Manpower, promoting SMEs, Strong Law enforcing Agencies, Diplomacy and Armed Forces.
Food and Agriculture
This strategy imposed a plethora of Covid-19 protecting measures that have significantly affected agricultural production, food supply, and demand. They are highly vulnerable to any disruptions to their livelihoods or access to food. Vietnam, for example, the world’s third-biggest rice exporter, has temporarily suspended rice export contracts. Experts opine that current blockages to transport routes, transport restrictions and quarantine measures, shortages of labour, and spikes in product’s prices are obstructive for fresh food supply chains and might also result in increased levels of food loss and waste. Boosting social protection programmes are crucial to protect incomes and purchasing power, particularly for the most affected households. Government should provide conditional or unconditional cash transfers, public works programmes that help reduce unemployment; or policies/monitoring aimed at stabilising food prices, and protecting incomes from damaging out-of-pocket health-care costs by ensuring coverage of essential health services.
The global economy is reeling at the threats posed by Coronavirus. The preliminary estimates by the UNCTAD amount to a loss of US$1.0 trillion to the global economy in 2020 alone, which is already evident in reduced shipments, falling oil prices, and cancelled orders for merchandise. The ILO estimates a whopping 25 million job loss, which is far greater than the 22 million employment losses during the 2009 global recession. There is certainly a challenging time ahead, and our industries need to prepare for mitigating the economic and other non-health risks of Coronavirus. Broadly speaking, Coronavirus poses at least six categories of risks – social, economic, institutional, geopolitical, health, and technological, which could be remembered by the mnemonic SEIGHT, shown by the info graph. In Bangladesh context, the specific risks could be – Coronavirus related death and panic, anarchy in the health-care system, job loss in the local and overseas markets, rise in the number of unemployed and returning migrants, economic recession, financial system collapsing into hyperinflation, and social unrest.
How Armed Forces Help Fight COVID-19
The COVID-19 epidemic has evidenced countries’ unpreparedness to face such a challenge. Because assets at their disposal were insufficient, governments turned to the Military for assistance. Although the state of emergency does not mean the same for all countries, we can find some commonalities in the different approaches. When declared, it empowers governments to take actions or impose policies that they would normally not be permitted to undertake.
The list of actions that armed forces are performing in different countries is long. In extreme cases, like in Mexico, the military took the responsibility of running hospitals. Beyond repatriating Italian and European citizens, the Italian air force has transported material and medical equipment for civil protection, and logistical support for field hospitals.
Those armed forces with the capacity to produce medicaments also contributed to mitigate the shortfall of medical products and equipment. Despite the fact that COVID-19 is largely a medical and political problem, the Military does have a large role to play. The Armed Frocesmay continue to provide disaster support to civil authorities, provide medical assistance, maintain order, and deliver much-needed supplies. Preventing the virus’ proliferation among the Military is important both for national security and because specialist army, navy and air force units are being drafted in to help governments tackle the virus in many countries.
Armed Forces Deployment in the Root Level
Bangladesh Army has been deployed in 62 out of 64 districts of Bangladesh. It has deployed troops up to Upazilla level in the districts and up to Thana level in the City Areas. Since it has made access to the root level on the request of the civil administration it can very easily reach out to the people to implement any decision of the Government. It has not only ensured that people are aware of the impacts of Coronavirus in our lives and requirement of following the Corona Protocol in the line of World Health Organization.
Role of the Armed Forces for Operation Covid Shield
As the Coronavirus starts spreading in 07-08 March 2020, the Government of Bangladesh decided to deploy Bangladesh Army in 62 out of 64 districts while Bangladesh Navy in rest 02 Districts. Bangladesh Air Force was kept on standby for ferrying of patients if it would be required. Though, initially the Armed Forces were deployed with the task of aiding the Civil Administration for ensuring the expatriates to remain in quarantine for at least 14 days. Secondly, to ensure social distancing of the people who would come out for emergency requirements? They also ensured that people stay at their home. As the Army was deployed on the ground, they undertook various spontaneous implied tasks for the benefit of the people of Bangladesh and supporting the Government of Bangladesh in the efforts of fighting with COVID-19. As the Army was deployed on the ground, they undertook various spontaneous tasks for the benefits of the people of Bangladesh and supporting the Government of Bangladesh in the efforts of fighting with COVID-19.
Usually refers to security that protects something from harm in quiet and unobtrusive ways, often invisibly and after the fact, rather than with visible barriers before the fact. Soft security can refer to immediate security measures, such as silent burglar alarms or motion detectors, but often refers to more elaborate social security systems such as the “moralnetwork”[clarification needed] in a tightly-knit community — for example, a cluster of friends on a busy city street. Bangladesh Army, by their very presence at the root level they are providing soft security to the country.
Law and Order under Control
Due to the presence of Army in the root level, law and order during this scary situation remained under control. Besides fulfilling its primary task for operation Covid Shield it automatically helped other Law Enforcing Agencies by supplementing their capability mere by presence in the area. Due to the very presence of the Army in the core of the capital Dhaka and patrolling in the areas many of the social crimes have drastically reduced.
Even though environmental degradation and climate change sometimes cause violent conflict within and between countries and other times not, it can weaken the national security of the state in number of profound ways. Environmental change can undermine the economic prosperity which plays big role in country’s military capacity and material power. Environmental security examines threats posed by environmental events and trends to individuals, communities or nations. Due the natural calmited environmental challenge is often posed to the country as it happen “Amfan” in the coastel areas of greater Khula and Barishal. Bangladesh Army and Bangladesh Navy palyed a very significant role in helping the people to warn, evacuate, providing food and repairing damaged dam and houses.
The school, colleges and universities are closed due to COVID-19 since mid of March 2020. The young students are very much vulnerable as they can hardly maintain social distance when in school. On the other hand, a continuation of the academic calendar for students is very important for their development of mental faculty not only for passing the public exams but also to make their base strong. Few of the public exams such as HSC, O levels have also been postponed or rescheduled to a later date still with uncertainty. Though in most of the town based school and other institutions virtual classes have started but the fact remains that in the context of Bangladesh, there are many students who cannot afford to remain connected. Here, Army may helps people with its integral communication system or by providing manpower.
Food security is related to production and marketing and obtaining the appropriate price of the same. Army at different stages of such requirements may assist the people for production ad marketing agro products. Armed Forces were employed for distribution of food like that of VGF and other programmes.
To all activities to fight this corona war a strong and effective diplomatic manoeuvre will be essential. During the Liberation War of 1971, diplomacy paid a great dividend. In the present crisis, also diplomacy can play a very important role. Bangladesh has a large number of expatriates who are one of the main sources of remittance. But due to the ongoing Corona situation, a large number have been sent back to Bangladesh, which needs to be taken care of. After the Corona situation, our garments sector and other export-oriented industries/sector will require to get back the markets.
It is clearly understood that Coronavirus is going to have a heavy toll from the world and the humanity. Bangladesh will be no exception. Though in comparison with other countries is regards to the time frame the situation is still better than worse. It no doubt it is going to keep its deep scar in all sphere of the life. Besides, sacrificing lives from Covid-19 there will be manypmore due to its resultant effects of economic recession, lay offs of factories, mass dismissal from private sectors for cost cutting and the least a possible famine as a result of this. As has been discussed in this article Governemnts requires ‘whole Governement’ efforts or all elements of national power as the on going crisis or its after effects deserves no less than a “National Emergency”. Followings aspects are recommended:
All out efforts with the combination of all elements of national power will have to integrated.
Healthcare facilities will have to be enhance . It is evidently seen that the private sector medical service were not very effective during the crsis. Rather people of all classes had to depend on Government Medical Hospitals and laboratories. However, their facilities required massive overhauling and supports.
Economic development is one of the many core competences of the government. This has been severly affected due to the Coronavirus crisis including severly reduced remittances. As such massive boostinig up will be required to make up shortfall caused be the Corona crisis.
To boost up the economy, a deliberate patronization of agriculture will be require as a priority sector. No place and no season should be spared to reap the corps to contribute to the economy.
Education Sector has been quite deeply affected. The examination of different levels may be overcome by the students, But the void created by the irregularities of academic classes are like to impacts on the students overall intellectual basics.
Diplomacy will play an important role for quick recovery of our labour markets and for resolving by bilateral issues including that of Rohingya.
National security arises from any matters. Any sectors if not addressed properly may come up as a security issue for future. However, with bold decision of the Governemtns of bagaldesh, Security issues have been well tied up. But it should never be relaxed. Armed forces, especially has always proved to be one of the most erliable tools for the Government to maintain the national interests of the country.
Bangladesh is fighting with Coronavirus like in all other countries of the world. Though the situation had gone beyond the control in many developed countries but the situation in Bangladesh is better than worse. Governments all over the world are fighting this Coronavirus with all-out effort with all their elements of National Power. In a military or political setting, the term “whole of government” usually refers to the four instruments of national power that countries use to promote and sustain their national security and grand-strategic interests. Those elements are diplomatic, informational, military, and economic — collectively known by the abbreviation DIME. It is very natural that in the case of any calamities or disaster the any country will use all its elements of power is hand fight it back, such as fighting with Corona. If we try to define elements of power; Military is an important part of it. Military in any country is maintained over the years just to fight in the crucial moments. The definition of war against Corona deserved special definition as Humanitarian Approach to the military deployment. Bangladesh Army has so far performed much higher than the expectation and will surely do much more at the call of national duty which otherwise they are oathboud to do.
Brig Gen Md Mostafizur Rahman, hdmc, afwc, psc, Ph.D, Comd, 46 Indep Inf Bde and Independent Director, Dhaka Stock Exchange Ltd, Dhaka Cantonment, Dhaka.