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Health ministry urges to hold off tobacco production, sales

The Health Services Department of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has requested the Ministry of Industry to suspend the production, supply, marketing and sale of tobacco products of all tobacco companies and revoke special licenses to deal with the Covid-19 situation. Today, Tuesday (May 18), the joint secretary of the National Tobacco Control Cell under this department.

The Infectious Diseases (Prevention, Control and Eradication) Act, 2016, designed to address public health emergencies and reduce health risks, temporarily banned markets, public gatherings and movement from one place to another within the country to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. But the tobacco companies continue to violate the law on the pretext of receiving instructions from the Ministry of Industry.

Read the full letter here.

Occupational health and safety measures during COVID-19

There has been a recent circular by the government that the drug manufacturers as export industries will be allowed to gradually reopen. Essential businesses such as banks, food and pharmaceutical companies have, on the other front, already gone in operation. While it is understandable that this may be an essential step in order for the economy to function, what appears to be lacking is government guidelines on occupational health and safety measures for such businesses to function during COVID-19 emergencies.

What can the enterprises do?

Social distancing: As a start, workstations ie cash counters, sewing stations, etc in each enterprise should be rearranged keeping at least two metres or six feet space of physical distance between each employee. The same should also be followed for other places of social gathering at work ie canteens, meeting rooms and customer waiting areas.

To control cues of employees or customers entering the work-station together during entry and exit, enterprises could also draw circles for people to stand or sit and wait at least three to six feet apart while in queue.

Rotational shift hours and wherever applicable rotational workdays could also be maintained to minimise risks of large gatherings of employees working at the same place at a time.

On-site staff should be minimised to essential or critical staff only eg those involved in manufacturing, production, delivery, cash disbursement, etc.

Staff involved in services ie marketing, designing, finance and accounts, etc should be minimised to work-at-home or teleworking modalities, and/or rotational work-day modalities wherever possible. Most meetings are also recommended to be convened via virtual or online modalities at this time of the COVID 19 crisis.

Similarly, office transport should ideally take social distancing modalities as well, limiting the number of people sitting in a row, or putting physical distancing barriers for example. Transport allowances could also be increased so that employees do not have to resort to taking public buses and such risky transport modalities.

For registered customers and/or visitors, they can be assigned different time slot allocations for visits, either randomly or based on business-based algorithms.

Off-site or home delivery services should especially be encouraged for customers via measures ie online sales and services, telesales, telemarketing and active call centres. However, delivery and transport workers should also be guidelines on contact with customers.

Protective gear: All employees should be provided with personal protective gear ie masks, gloves, aprons, head shields, etc while in operation in order to minimise the risk of contamination for both the products, exchange currencies as well as the employee themselves.

Work and community hygiene: A guideline should be provided on intensity and the frequency of disinfectants use required at work ie bleaching of surfaces and workstations, etc at regular intervals, depending on variables i.e. number of employees, frequency of customer visits, etc.

Moreover, hand-washing and hand sanitiser points should be increased and well maintained by the employers for both employees and customers or visitors.

Workplace exhaust system should be improved and well-maintained as well.

For workers from low-income brackets, realising risks they carry back to their families and vice versa, employers should ideally also provide them with hygiene kits to use at home and while travelling to and from work.

Paid sick leave, health and life insurance: Employees are taking a health and life risk to keep their businesses running in this time of crisis. As such, in a goodwill gesture, employers should ideally expand their coverage of paid sick leave to employees so that they do not bring the disease to the workplace when they are symptomatic or have already contacted the diseases.

Employers can also enrol their employees in health and life insurance packages, wherever feasible. As the risk of COVID 19 contamination by an employee also puts their families at risk, such policies should also take a family-centred approach.

Hygiene: Employers should also actively promote hygiene awareness among employees i.e. washing hands, maintaining social distance, covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing, etc.

What can government do?

Social distancing: Many countries have adopted curfew modalities of business operations. If more than two people are found travelling together, gathered together at a distance of fewer than three feet apart in public spaces, or found without masks, fines can be imposed.

On the other hand, operation hours of certain business types could be extended to minimise large crowds gathering together at a time and maintaining low social distance as such.

Public transport: The government needs to impose restrictions on how many people can travel together in both public and private transport ie what is the maximum number of people a bus or tempo can carry, limiting number of people sitting in a row, or putting physical distancing barriers for example, etc. On the other hand, transport facilities should also be given hygiene protocols to follow ie disinfecting surfaces on regular intervals depending of frequency of passengers, size of vehicle, etc.

Inspections: While, at least at the enterprise level, guests or non-essential visitors should be limited, the continuation of workplace inspections would be essential to ensure such rules and regulations are followed and adhered to.

Originally published on New Age.

ShopUp takes steps for frontline employees and SMEs

In Bangladesh, the Covid-19 cases are increasing everyday and amidst this, the ecommerce frontline delivery workers have contributed to keep the country running in this time of crisis by delivering essentials at our doorsteps. ShopUp, a B2B  platform focusing on more than 350,000 SMEs having core focus on its logistics services recognizes this.

ShopUp has kept their delivery operations running for delivering grocery essentials & medicine all over Dhaka & 14 more cities Outside dhaka. While doing so, they have also taken a very few commendable steps to ensure the safety of their frontline workers. 

To ensure their frontline workers are safe, they are providing them with new masks, gloves, hand sanitizers everyday. A doctor is training them on safety measures like washing their hands, removing their masks & gloves in the right manner. They are also constantly trained on how to maintain social distancing while they are on the ground like maintaining minimal contacts while delivering products, having their masks and gloves on all the time while delivering. Their hubs are also deep cleaned everyday to ensure they don’t catch any germs. The company also ensured in this uncertain time their medical expenses are also covered by the company by initiating an isolation space inside the office and introducing insurance for all these frontline workers. 

Other than these efforts the CEO of Shopup, Afeef Zaman has also recently introduced 2 major initiatives. A Hero Bonus where the company contributes a percentage of the variable incomes for their frontline heroes and a Frontline welfare fund where all the employees come forward to contribute their frontline colleagues in having their income flow steady for them and their families. Recently in one of his communications to all his employees he said “I would like to thank the real heroes who have been fighting in the front lines. Fighting to keep the dreams of so many merchants alive. When the hard times come, it is not people in high chairs who keep the world moving – it is you guys who battle to keep the economy alive and keep pushing forward. My sincerest gratitude to each and every one of those ShopUp family members.”

In addition to that, they have also addressed that many SMEs are coming to a halt during this crisis and by the time this ends, they might cease to exist. As business is the only source of income for many SME owners, their survival has come under threat. Considering this issue, ShopUp has partnered up with Obhizatrik foundation to collect Zakaat and help these SMEs by securing a stable source of income for them.

To know more about Project Shokkhom and to donate, visit- https://www.facebook.com/shopupshokkhom/

What does COVID-19 mean for angel investing in Bangladesh

It’s been a few weeks since I wrote my last article. Like so many in the startup ecosystem in Bangladesh and beyond, we at Bangladesh Angels Network (BAN) have not been immune to the present crisis with the lockdown in the country and the uncertain state of the economy. We’ve had to put pending deals on hold and postpone our upcoming showcase and are looking to hold one virtually instead. But I’ve been heartened by the resilience and ingenuity displayed by founders in our portfolio and pipeline, as well as the camaraderie among ecosystem builders, including board members of Bangladesh Angels, to work together to conceptualize and advocate for potential rescue packages for the sector. These are truly extraordinary times, and there will be a pain to bear in the short term, but I truly believe that long term foundations are also being built right now, both within companies and the ecosystem.

I’ve been asked, and have been asking around, about what start-up founders can do to pitch investors in times like this. To be very frank, for most angel investors, especially those who run their own companies, priority #1 is and will be their own businesses and their employees. I suspect that it will take at least three to six months before investors will be actively looking to do deals again, but it does not mean that they are not open to hearing pitches and ideas right now, especially from companies and founders who’ve taken advantage of this downtime, as best as they can, to both position their business for survival in the near term and success in the medium and long term. In fact, those are the exact kinds of conversations that I’ve been having with members and prospective members of Bangladesh Angels over the last two weeks.

So what can founders be doing right now, and what actions and qualities should angel investors look for?

Leadership matters

Certain principles of angel investing will remain constant, no matter what times we live in. In an earlier article, I wrote that 90% of early-stage investing in companies is in the quality and character of the founders. I believe that to be true more than ever. Rajan Anandan, Managing Director for Sequoia Capital, spoke in a recent interview with YourStory about how anyone can lead during good times, but the true mettle of leadership is forged during the crisis, and how leaders navigate themselves and their teams through them.

How does that manifest itself in short term actions? If founders are sitting still, waiting for things to hopefully turn around, or some kind of rescue from some external party, be it investors, the government or others, then they are not exhibiting the traits of decisive leadership. This is a once-in-a-hundred year wave, and founders can choose to wait for it to drown them, or build a raft as best as they can and try to get to safety. In that process, some hard decisions must be made.

In the immediate term, the first and most important priority is to extend the runway of companies. If founders have 3 months, then they should try to get it to 6. Once they get to 6, then try to figure out ways to get to 12, or ideally longer. We have to assume it will take at least a 12–18 month period for things to normalize and get back to where it was pre-COVID. So businesses must be able to survive in the meantime.

The VC community in India have put together an action plan with practical tips. I’ve seen firsthand and heard about founders implementing many of them. Some relevant recommendations include:

  • Re-negotiating payables and lengthening terms
  • Getting money in the bank as soon as possible from customers and reducing dead inventory and receivables, even if it means providing discounts to do so
  • Agreeing on some kind of rental moratorium or discounts with landlords, at least during the lockdown period
  • Getting employee buy-in for wage cuts, alternating days and/or salary deferrals, potentially converting some of those lost wages into an ESOP scheme for the future, at least for the most valuable employees

All of these actions, especially those regarding employees, require tough, frank conversations. The worker layoffs and wage cuts, in particular, are gut-wrenching. But there are ways to implement them with empathy, making sure that the top management bears the brunt of the salary cuts, in order to protect the wages of the least paid, and that there’s at least a provisional timeline, for example. It also helps to implement them sooner rather than later.

Potential investors should not penalize founders who are successfully able to implement these steps with buy-in from stakeholders because it speaks volumes about their leadership abilities, decisiveness and willingness to trade short term pain for long term gain. Having their most important stakeholders willing to take haircuts to keep them afloat also means that the company provides significant value to these stakeholders.

Pivoting & customer engagement

There’s been a lot of great ideas to pivot or take advantage of near term opportunities presented by this crisis, though they also create challenges. For those in essential services such as healthcare, it’s a no-brainer. BanglaMeds, for example, has seen their revenue triple in the last month. They are supplying not just essential medicines, but devices. For them, the pivot is more away from “B2B2C” sales via channel partners such as e-commerce sites, which are shut down, and into direct sales, as well as getting listed on platforms like Pathao and Shohoz as they’re rolling out medicine delivery to reach a wider base of consumers. In the online grocery segment, Khaas Food had their best-ever month in March, though logistics and working capital, difficult in the best of times, is becoming harder to manage. Education is another “essential service” despite the lockdown. Esho Shikhi, a BAN portfolio company, has seen their best revenue month in March since the relaunch of their app six months ago as learners are unable to go to coaching centres, meaning they are stuck at home and looking for e-learning options. In logistics, companies like Loop compensated for the drop in demand in one industry with the rise in demand from the food distribution sector, though they did face challenges due to the unavailability of labourers.

For those outside “essential services,” companies are using existing assets and operations and re-orienting them to new businesses. Nitex, which provides a digital platform for emerging brands in European and North American markets to source from Bangladesh, is now sourcing regulation- and medical-compliant personal protective equipment. Folia Materials, which produces and distributes low-cost water filters from the nanoparticle-infused paper in Bangladesh and SE Asia, is using their R&D know-how to develop masks from the same technology.

But it doesn’t make sense to force a pivot, to say groceries, food or healthcare, if a company is not already in an adjacent space. For many founders, the lockdown means engaging with customers and continuing to build relationships with them. Kludio, which runs a plethora of brands from its cloud kitchen, was proactive in implementing and communicating enhanced hygiene and disinfection best practices when the lockdown hit, providing customers with a peace of mind when ordering. PoshaPets, pet services and e-commerce platform had to shut down their at-home services, which was driving the bulk of their revenues pre-COVID, and move the interactions between customers and veterinarians online. But more importantly, as stores have shut down and delivery options dried up in the early days of the lockdown, the founder was delivering products herself to customers to meet their requests. The act speaks volumes both about the brand equity and trusts the company’s built with their power users, who can serve as advocates as things get better, and the leadership quality and passion of the founder.

Building the foundations

Frankly speaking, most companies will see dramatic declines in their revenues during this lockdown, and the potential economic recovery will most likely not be a V-shaped recovery that happens quickly, but a U-shaped one that happens over time. But I’ll remind investors that COVID is not forever, and neither is the global recession. What matters, then, is the actions that founders take now to optimize their businesses to take advantage of a post-COVID world.

From that standpoint, we in the ecosystem see tremendous opportunities in the change in the behavior of customers. Most downturns accelerate on-going shifts and preference for automation and digitization, particularly among businesses, in order to boost productivity. What makes this one unique is that it is forcing consumers, including the Bangladeshi middle-class, to rapidly adopt digital services. Work from home and digital meetings, previously unheard of in Bangladesh, is now mainstream. Online grocery deliveries, telemedicine and online education are gaining traction. The job of startup founders is to make sure that these new digital habits are not easily discarded for old analogue ones, through superior user experience and value proposition. They will be helped by the fact that in the aftermath of the lockdown, users will be looking to minimize human contact and maximize hygiene, and look for services that help them do one or both.

But in addition to consumer behaviour, we have to think about behaviour change among startup founders and investors. Investors should no longer reward top-line growth into high valuations if that growth is of poor quality. Mainstream behaviour pre-COVID, such as chasing and subsidizing GMV growth through discounts and high marketing expenses, resulting in high customer acquisition costs, as well as poor unit economics will not and should not pass the muster. Maybe that high GMV also came from a customer base whose average basket size was too low, which was not providing recurring revenue, with long lead times and time to convert to cash and poor retention. Maybe the employee-to-revenue ratio was too high. All of those metrics will and should be scrutinized alongside revenue in the post-COVID world, and founders must be ready to show improvements in them.

Other questions to approach startups pre- and post-COVID would be:

  • Have they mapped out different scenarios, including best and worst cases, and adjusted their roadmap, costs and fundraising plan accordingly?
  • Have they consolidated their multiple projects in line with this new roadmap, only focusing on the essentials that can be monetized and eliminating any “nice-to-have” pet projects?
  • If the startup has multiple verticals or customer segments, is it focusing on the ones that are growing and profitable for that particular startup?
  • If it relied on a single revenue source or even customer, is it working to diversify that?
  • If its supply chain was too narrow and vulnerable, is the startup building redundancies in the supply chain by cultivating new vendors?
  • Have they explored opportunities for partnerships, including the in-kind exchange of services, even mergers, that take advantage of COVID-induced opportunities?
  • If the product was sub-par, are they taking the lockdown period to retool it and add necessary new features?

If the answer is yes to any or all of these questions, then the founders have a good story to tell to investors and indicate that they can come out stronger from the crisis and take advantage of a post-COVID world.

Valuations & fundraising

What does all this mean for valuations and fundraising? If startups have offers on the table, and if it’s a matter of 10–20–30% difference in valuation between the investor and the company but still a premium from the last fundraise, I would advise to close immediately and try to take down payments to get money in the bank. The longer companies wait, the harsher the investment climate will be. And remember, the objective is to extend the runway.

The typical desire of founders, which is to get a 2–3X multiple on their last fundraising, especially if it happened in the previous 12 months, may no longer hold water. Strong founders and companies may be able to command a premium based on a double-digit percentage increase. Others may have to raise at par from the last valuation or even take down rounds. Much of this depends on their ability to negotiate, the financial health of the business, including its runway, and the strength of the plan and actions the founders have taken to fortify the business.

Does it make sense to approach existing angel investors? Absolutely, though the challenge here is that most angel investors do not make provisions for bridge rounds and further investments into a company, unlike institutional investors. The objective of an angel is to spread small tickets across multiple companies, given the high likelihood of failure, even in the best of times.

The wrong way to engage existing investors is to ask them to top up so the company can continue to keep its current burn in the hopes of a fast recovery. The right way to engage them is to show them the actions the company has taken, the new plan it has and the potential investments on the table, and ask them to exercise their pro-rata rights to invest and keep their stake, as new investors come in. New investors would also be confident about investing when existing investors co-invest at the same terms. Transparency and consistency is also important. Founders who are not diligent about regular updates and communications can’t expect to suddenly ask for money again.

Win, Together

“Remember, we are here to build an institution. Every single action we take, every single decision, has to come from that perspective.”

I remember that quote from one of our members during a board meeting at a BAN portfolio company. It crystallized to me what early-stage and angel investing in companies is about: Not the chasing of valuations or accolades, but the building of transformative institutions that have the chance to remake Bangladesh. Going further and paraphrasing the words of Vinod Khosla, legendary Silicon Valley VC, financial returns are the natural side effect of bringing big ideas to market. Now, more than ever, as the crisis has exposed existing cracks in the economy, we need those big ideas and ambitious entrepreneurs to survive, succeed and work for everyone.

My commitment as the CEO of Bangladesh Angels is to continue to find such entrepreneurs, tell their stories, to grow the community of angels who also believe in that vision and to work with the ecosystem to create meaningful opportunities for both entrepreneurs and investors. We are not competing against each other, but competing against failure. So please get in touch, and let’s find a way to win, together. And in the meantime stay safe and stay healthy.

The author is the CEO of Bangladesh Angels Network.

Gowala delivering milk on demand

In the wake of the global epidemic of COVID-19, the local government and non-government organisations and institutions are fighting relentlessly to ensure safety, security and especially food security of the people of Bangladesh. Gowala food has come forward to help in this fight. Considering the circumstances, the organisation will deliver fresh milk to households upon calling a special number (9638666555). Apart from that, the delivery charge will be exempted upon any order that exceeds BDT 300. Order can also be placed through Gowala’s website.

Gowala’s managing director and co-founder, Shafiul Alam says, Gowala has been working from the beginning to create trust among people with fresh milk and dairy products. Gowala always deliveries products in standard packaging along with maintaining safety and hygiene of the food. In the current circumstances, to protect consumers from COVID-19, Gowala has taken these steps. At present, upon ordering 5 litres of milk, one can avail a 10% off.  We will keep this offer valid until the COVID-19 situation settles down. This offer is valid for different parts of Dhaka for the time being,

Responding to the COVID crisis, Peace Talk Café goes online

Currently, we are all going through a time of unprecedented changes and looming uncertainties. In this time, responding to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and youth pulse, Peace Talk Café – Presented by Digital Khichuri Challenge, organized an online discourse with the youth on addressing misinformation and hoax surrounding the COVID-19 crisis, on April 12 at 9.30 am-11:30 am.

This discourse is arranged every quarter to expand the space for dialogue between youth and speakers coming from diverse background, underlining the fact that, building peace is not only an effort of technical specialists but that each and every individual has a role to play. This is a part of UNDP’s on-going Digital Khichuri Challenge, which is a youth engagement platform that aims to create a peaceful and inclusive society. This edition, Peace Talk Cafe focused on the unparalleled impacts of COVID-19, affecting hundreds of thousands of people and disrupting peace in the country, and how the spread of misinformation and hoax was heightening this already escalating problem.

Addressing the rampant misinformation, Mohammad Abdul Quayyum, Head of Communications of UNDP said, “We are not just fighting an epidemic, we are also fighting an ‘infodemic’. This infodemic is spreading as fast as the epidemic. We have an abundance of information across all channels, be it TV or social media, which presents us with a challenge. Information can be an aid, but it can also pose a great danger if misused. Getting the right information to the right person at the right time is an aid. But misinformation can be dangerous and must be avoided at all costs.”

When asked how we can identify fake news, Mohammad Nazmul Islam, Additional Deputy Commissioner, Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime, Dhaka Metropolitan Police, mentioned: “Identifying fake news is a rather technical process but in a nutshell, when you come across any suspicious news, cross-check at least 3 other sources, run a keyword search and, in case of images, run a reverse image search.” He further added, “there are many ways to identify fake news, but we don’t make the effort to verify. We need to be more responsible in this regard.”

Sakib Bin Rashid, Deputy Manager, BRAC believes that the overwhelming spread of misinformation regarding COVID-19 has to do with a lack of awareness generation among the masses. He mentioned “When we find people sharing misinformation, we tend to ridicule them, instead of correcting them. We have to bring about this attitude change. For those who are not receptive to change, it is our responsibility to make them understand, make them aware. Ridiculing them or not correcting them will contribute more to the problem”

Peace Talk Café was attended by Bangladeshi youth from all over the world who shared their remarks on what might be done to tackle the misinformation crisis within this COVID crisis.

বিশ্বজুড়ে কমছে বায়ুদূষণের মাত্রা

করোনাভাইরাসের সংক্রমণ বিশ্বজুড়ে ছড়িয়ে পড়ায় রাস্তাঘাট ও কলকারখানায় মানুষের ব্যস্ততা কমে গেছে। ফলে কার্বন নিঃসরণ কমেছে ব্যাপক হারে। বিশেষ করে বিশ্বের অন্যতম দূষিত বায়ুর দেশ ও কার্বন নিঃসরণকারী চীন, যুক্তরাষ্ট্র ও ভারতের বায়ুর মানে ব্যতিক্রমী উন্নতি ঘটেছে।

করোনাভাইরাস সংক্রমণের প্রভাবে চীনের বায়ুদূষণ নাটকীয় পর্যায়ে কমে গেছে। চীনের অত্যাধিক ভাইরাস সংক্রমিত এলাকাগুলোতে নাইট্রোজেন ডাই-অক্সাইডের পরিমাণ কমে গেছে আশ্চর্যজনক হারে। সাধারণত কল-কারখানা ও গাড়ির ধোঁয়া থেকেই বিষাক্ত এ গ্যাস নির্গত হয়।

করোনাভাইরাস মহামারী হিসেবে আবির্ভূত হলেও বিশ্বের উপকারও হচ্ছে। কমেছে দূষণ, হ্রাস পেয়েছে পৃথিবীর কার্বন নিঃসরণ মাত্রা। করোনার প্রাদুর্ভাবের পর দেশে দেশে স্বাস্থ্য জরুরি অবস্থা জারি করা হয়েছে। চীনের অত্যাধিক ভাইরাস সংক্রমিত এলাকাগুলোয় নাইট্রোজেন ডাই-অক্সাইডের পরিমাণ কমে গেছে আশ্চর্যজনক হারে।
সাধারণত কারখানা ও গাড়ির ধোঁয়া থেকেই বিষাক্ত এ গ্যাস নির্গত হয়। করোনা সংক্রমণের কারণে চীনে সিংহভাগ কলকারখানা দীর্ঘদিন বন্ধ থাকার পাশাপাশি বেশকিছু শহরে গাড়ি চলাচল নিষিদ্ধ হওয়ায় এর সুপ্রভাব পড়েছে প্রাকৃতিক পরিবেশে।

চীন, ইটালী বা ব্রিটেনের আকাশে অবিশ্বাস্য গতিতে কমছে নাট্রোজেন ডাই অক্সাইড, সালফার ডাই অক্সাইড আর কার্বন মনোক্সাইডের মাত্রা। আর এর ফলে দল বেঁধে ফিরে আসছে পাখির দল। সভ্যতা থেকে দূরে সরে যাওয়া নিরীহ ডলফিনের ঝাঁক ফিরে আসছে মানুষের কাছে!

ক্ষুদ্র এক ভাইরাস গোটা দুনিয়ার চিত্র পাল্টে দিচ্ছে। আমাদের মানসিকতা ও জীবনযাত্রার পরিবর্তনের ফলে সীমান্তের কাটা তার ভুলে গিয়ে গোটা পৃথিবী দাঁড়িয়েছে এক আকাশের নীচে। সবাই অজানা অচেনা প্রতিপক্ষ করোনাভাইরাসের বিরুদ্ধে লড়াইয়ে নেমেছে।

আমরা আমাদের ইমিউন সিস্টেমের কথা জানলেও পৃথিবীর ইমিউন সিস্টেমের কথা কখনো ভাবিনি। করোনা-বিপর্যস্ত মানুষ, দফায় দফায় ঘরবন্দী থাকায় পৃথিবীর দূষণ আরো কমবে। এর ফলে কমবে ক্যানসার, কিডনী, শ্বাসযন্ত্র ও অন্যান্য দূষণজনিত রোগ। আগামীর নতুন পৃথিবীতে নতুনভাবে নামবে মানুষ, ভাঙাচোরা অর্থনীতি, থমকে যাওয়া শিল্প, আমূল বদলে যাওয়া জীবনকে নতুন করে বাঁধতে।

The 7 lessons coronavirus has been teaching us

The novel coronavirus, COVID-19, is derived from a large family of coronaviruses which are common causes of colds and other upper respiratory infections. Although a close cousin of the virus, the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome or SARS was more lethal but much less contagious than COVID-19. Till now, there have been no outbreaks of SARS worldwide, since its emergence in 2003. Zoonotic in nature, the pathogenicity of the coronavirus has caused a massive public hysteria –triggering governments and institutions alike to race into developing vaccines and anti-resistant drugs to fight off this plague. 

Nonetheless, every cloud has a “silver lining”, if you may, and as does this pandemic. It is about time we put things to perspective.

Mindfulness

This is the time to introspect on our mindless habitual behaviours which are causing these calamities. Every single one of our actions can have a dangerous reaction and the exponential growth of the coronavirus is, nevertheless, the seamless example of it. If we are more mindful, we can mitigate this crisis by a 3 fold. So, wash your hands. Wash them every time you come home. Wash them every time you are about to eat. And sanitize them every time you are out. Being aware will help us uphold this practice sustainably.

It is even more imperative because even though the incubation period of the coronavirus ranges from 1 to 14 days, this is a novel coronavirus, and that means –it could be asymptomatic for some carriers. For instance, a study revealed that 17.9% of people with the virus had no symptoms.

Prevention is better than cure

Coronavirus is the symbol of how we have taken everything for granted. We are the least bothered regarding washing or sanitizing our hands before eating. Never do we consider the penalties of this simple, but massive, slip-up. Ultimately, the only solution is to break ourselves from this mechanical inertia. Washing our hands effectively gets rid of the viral envelope of the coronavirus. Besides, hygiene is at the hub of maintaining good health and lifespans. It is vital to exercise proper sanitation to preserve economic and social well-being, and it should and must start from now.

The impact of communal effort

With over 36,000 people infected with the coronavirus, there is no herd immunity, indicating that everybody is vulnerable to infection. However, the global crisis has given us a glimpse of how a community-level coordinated response can tackle the spread of the virus. This has also shown us how vital it is to practice empathy and compassion, and with that, maintain social distancing –so that we can protect ourselves and those who are immunodeficient. Such measures like this are critical to flatten the curve of the pandemic. And disregarding procedures like this can make structural problems of the pandemic wider –as the real restrictive factors are expected to be the ventilators or the staff.

Being vigilant, not an alarmist

Fear is infectious, and in a time of a health crisis such as this, nothing is more important than staying alert, yet clam. Eventually, the only device to succumb to is the facts. The effects of consuming sensationalist media coverage regarding coronavirus pave the way for excessive panic.  At any rate, it is important to refrain from all that noise and merely heed official medical information and guidance and take care of yourself.

The need for better health surveillance

Although coronavirus is highly invasive, it is containable. And things could not have gotten to this degree if it had not been due to our culture of polarization. The skewered responses, collectively, have unveiled the failure of multilateral global health authorities. Member state-driven decision-making clarifies why the WHO tends to comply to national governments’ demands and agendas, even when they might impugn the organization’s primary mission. Yet, reverence to the sovereignty of one member state does not work if it put other nations and their people at risk.

Regardless, global health governance must fund country-level pandemic groundwork, surveillance, and response. And more money alone will not crack the operational problems that have condensed early control efforts.

Responsible capitalism as the saving grace

Currently, the C-suites everywhere are immersed with no steady answers, just best judgments and myriad mysteries over supply chains, volatile markets and the effect of travel bans and social distancing. However, liable firms will do everything imaginable to protect their people, i.e. employees, customers and supply chains. Reassuring health and safety are going to be the leading priority; the following will be to try to diminish the financial burden, particularly for staff on risky contracts. Yet, it is easier said than done.

But firms who offset this demand by providing real help to other groups will see vast benefits in the months and years ahead. These companies, who reckon the bigger picture, will shape a more resilient and more faithful workforce, be better positioned to undertake a persistent economic storm. All the huge corporations should be able to shield susceptible workers via dedicated schemes and cast-iron minimum income, including those people incapable to perform their duties because of sickness or through no fault of their own.

The time to digitally transform is now

In light of travel bans, school cessations, and recommendations to no mass gatherings and keeping our distance from others to curb the escalation of the virus, many people converted to digital tools to keep some aspect of normalcy. It has been pivotal to digitally transform our places of vocation and education to be able to operate effectually. Those companies able to use technology well to keep going and reconstruct their business model for the future by hastening digital transformation will be the ones ahead of their competition.

Even companies that were unaffected to the concept of a dispersed workforce have been compelled to allow working from home, so work can still be done while taking protection to halt the spread of the virus. At the core, the pandemic has established momentum in how we probably will do business. As Advertising mogul Sir Martin Sorrell advocated that the coronavirus outbreak will stimulate digital revolution, captivating consumers and businesses to move forward as things get tough.

It is fundamental to recognize that this pandemic will probably not be the last. But it gives us several contingency plans to prepare for. That being said, the time to be socially present and responsible is now –and it is up to us to transform the course of this pandemic. The right responses can minimize the repercussions, only if we act with clarity and most significantly, practice patience. After all, as Samuel Johnson once said, “Great works are performed not by strength but by perseverance”.  

This website lets you track Coronavirus symptoms online

Bangladesh Society of Infectious and Tropical diseases have come up with an innovative way to track early coronavirus symptoms online. The website, coronatestbd, lets you answer a series of questions based on your health conditions. Based on the answers provided, the website will let you know if you are likely to show symptoms of COVID-19 or not.

See the website here: http://coronatestbd.com/

This is not an alternative to the coronavirus test available in medical units. Head to your nearest medical unit if you are showing early signs of coronavirus.

Rare pictures of Bangabandhu that you should see

In an attempt to honour Bangabandhu on his 100th birth anniversary, we present you with 8 selected rare pictures of Bangabandhu that showcase his illustrious life, from his political career to personal.