The government in its proposed national budget for fiscal 2020-21 has allocated Tk 10,000 crore (Tk 100 billion) as a lump sum amount to meet emergency requirements while responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To combat the COVID-19 pandemic, we are implementing different programs involving Tk 55 billion under the Health Services Division. The government will do whatever is required to be done to address the pandemic. To meet emergency requirements, I propose to allocate Tk 10,000 crore (Tk 100 billion) as a lump sum amount,” Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said in his budget speech.“We all are aware that the whole world is in dire stress because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bangladesh is no exception. Like other countries in the world, public health and public life in Bangladesh is facing challenges because of the pandemic,” he said.
According to Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), some 78,052 coronavirus infected patients have been detected, 1049 deaths in the virus infection have been confirmed and 16,747 have made recovery from the disease.
“Since the first detection of coronavirus infection in Bangladesh in March this year, we have taken adequate preparatory measures to combat COVID-19. Under the constant and overall guidance of Prime Minister, we have taken all-out efforts to prevent the disease, contain infections and provide treatment against the disease,” the finance minister said.
He said no vaccine has been invented yet. The WHO guideline of social distancing is the only remedy. By including ‘COVID-19’ into the list of infectious diseases, the whole country has been declared ‘infection risk area’ as per the Infectious Disease (Prevention, Control and Elimination) Act, 2018.
In mid-March, the government declared the closure of all educational institutions and banned all types of public assembly and gathering, as these are the only means to protect the greater sections of the population from infection. Such closure is considered as the only way to protect people at large from the virus.
The government also declared general holidays across the country in the last week of March, which was continued till 30 May. After the formulation of the ‘National Preparedness and Response Plan’, its implementation has begun in right earnest to safeguard public life by ensuring medical treatment. Specialised 18 isolation units have been opened in all district and upazilla hospitals and health complexes, he said.
Covid-19 dedicated hospitals have been set-up in district towns to treat coronavirus patients, including 14 dedicated hospitals centrally in the capital. 55 laboratories have been established for corona detections, and various public health services institutions are being transformed into modern and developed service providing institutions.
“For this purpose, we have given an emergency allocation of Tk 5.29 billion for the health sector. We have decided to allocate additional funding, and provide incentives and compensation for the health sector to ensure the necessary personal safety of service providers engaged in combating Covid-19,” the finance minister said.
To provide compensation for the persons from different departments in case they get infected and succumb to death, and to provide honorariums to doctors, nurses and healthcare workers engaged in the treatment of coronavirus patients, an allocation of Tk 8.5 billion has been proposed, he added.
Mustafa Kamal said to provide treatment to coronavirus patients, 2,000 doctors and 6,000 nurses have been recruited on an urgent basis. Alongside, healthcare workers, including 386 medical technologists and 2,654 lab-attendants were recruited on an outsourcing basis. Besides, 1,200 medical technologists, 1,650 medical technicians and 150 cardiographs — altogether 3,000 posts have been created in the health sector.
He further said in addition to the provision of formal healthcare services, provision of Covid-19 related health services through mobile phones has been geared up. A screening app to trace the coronavirus infections and a national Covid-19 digital surveillance system with artificial intelligence to contain community infections of the virus and reduce risks have been developed. Twenty-nine guidelines and 11 public awareness-raising brochures have also been developed.
It is worth mentioning that, as an emergency measure, two projects have been taken to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. One is the ‘COVID-19 Emergency Response and Pandemic Preparedness Project’ at a cost of Tk 11.27 billion with financial assistance from the World Bank. The other one is the ‘COVID-19 Response Emergency Assistance’ of Tk 13.66 billion with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank. Implementation of these two projects has already begun. This will certainly enhance our capacity to fight COVID-19.
Besides, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) and the Government of Korea have made their commitments, and projects are under preparation, the minister said in this budget speech.