by Nadeem Qadir;
Its cruelty, not humanity that has exposed the ugly side of the human species with loved ones falling apart over phobia or fear linked to COVID-19 cases, which has seen a spike in Bangladesh in recent days said to be the most “crucial phase.”
Another painful side of this invisible enemy is how it has dented family understandings because of being locked up together for days triggered conflicts or lack of proper meals due funds drying up without earnings.
Indeed, whether China made the bug and let it go or it entered human body from a bat species, the COVID-19 has been wreaking havoc across the world and most importantly it has been eating our lives and lifestyles.
Coronavirus is just another influenza or flu, but a dangerous one and is having an equally dangerous effect in our personal lives.
At one of Dhaka’s graveyard, the diggers told this author that out of the two coronavirus patients they have buried so far, the scene was something they have never seen before.
“In one case, a middle-aged man was buried without any of his children or relatives doing the rites,” said one grave digger. The man was brought to the graveyard by an ambulance by a hospital staff who left the scene hurriedly.
In another case, an elderly woman was buried amid heavy rains that flooded the grave. The grave digger said only her elder son was present and he asked to rush.
There was no family to pray and bid them goodbye, the final goodbye.
This is sad and painful for the family members but the fear of social isolation forced them to keep the deaths a secret and farewells from the usual rituals of taking the body home first before burial.
A number of cases have been reported about families or individuals being socially stigmatised once the information that a family member has been infected with COVID-19.
One journalist found his parents locked in their flat because the neighbours did not want them to come out as he was hospitalised with the bug. Police intervened to free them despite the fact his parents were not affected.
In some villages, either an entire family was kept under self-made lockdown by local leaders in their houses.
The fear of getting infected with the virus is running high across Bangladesh as the information of the bug being extremely contagious has had an impact which has given birth to stigmatisation, even with some private hospitals.
Many people sick with other health problems were turned away by hospitals because they feared either it was a coronavirus case which the family members had kept a secret or the patient was a case of which did not show the typical symptoms of the bug, which kills sometimes.
Social scientists explained that everyone feared death and a coronavirus infected death is very painful as it attacks the lungs causing patients to gasp for air or have other conditions that are not easy to handle.
With the life turned upside down, everyone wanted to be extra cautious in major cities and towns as it is now a life when everyone is forced to live with the fear of death.
Along with a rise in social stigmatisation, the disease has put many into serious financial crisis which they had never faced before due to either lay off by different organisations or working without wages for months.
For many of these families, there is none they can turn to for financial help or find it embarrassing to ask for money from friends or family.
One email to this author read as follows:”My family members are on the brink of starvation as there is no wage for two month and I draw a meager 50,000 Taka monthly. For a four-member family it just ran out.”
He had “appealed” to his superior officer, but it was unheeded as they were surviving only on rice and lentil daily, he wrote, but never mentioned for assistance from this author.
His family is angry with him for the situation which would not have happened if his employer ensured minimum monthly payments of his wages.
Thus there are many others in similar condition and would rather perish than ask for a financial loan from friends or family as they will look down on them.
The employers must ensure wages and the local leaders must go door-to-door to quietly assist families who cannot seek help or loan.
COVID-19 has all the characters of evil and thus the need of the time is work to root out the bug and start strong awareness campaigns against stigmatisation as soon as possible.
Let humanity and love return to our lives.