Hasina urged citizens to take the vaccines as soon as possible to shield themselves from the coronavirus infection, reminding them that the pandemic has yet to ebb globally.
The prime minister made the call in her address to the nation on Friday, marking the completion of the third year of her government’s current tenure.
Bangladesh went through a difficult crisis in 2020 and 2021 due to the prevalence of the pandemic, she said. The crisis has yet to pass, as omicron, a new variant of the coronavirus, has spread across the globe.
“We need to be careful now, and follow the health protocols. I urge all those who haven’t taken the vaccine, to get the shot quickly,” Hasina said.
The delta variant of the coronavirus caused a second wave of COVID infections in 2021. As the pathogen finally began trending down across the globe following vaccination and other measures coming to fruition, but a new variant, omicron, was identified in South Africa towards the end of 2021.
Omicron is spreading across the world, rapidly pushing up the number of coronavirus cases in Europe and the US. As French Health Minister Olivier Veran says, omicron is not causing a ‘wave’ of infections but a ‘tide’ of it.
The number of patients with the omicron variant has crossed 3,000 in the neighbouring country of India. Bangladesh already reported 20 cases of omicron.
Experts believe that two doses of the coronavirus vaccine cannot provide total protection from the omicron, but lower the need for hospitalisation. The booster dose, however, provides better protection against the variant to a certain extent.
The government’s vaccination drive is in full swing, Hasina said. As of now, 129.5 million vaccine doses have been administered. More than 44 percent of the population have received at least the first dose of the vaccine, while 31 percent got two doses.
Bangladesh rolled out booster doses in December and has more than 95 million shots in stock.
The government launched its mass immunisation programme in phases in 2021 to provide vaccines to the people at the grassroots level. More than 8.3 million people received the vaccine in two days at a programme marking Hasina’s birthday.
The coronavirus pandemic has crushed the global economy and has affected the economy of Bangladesh negatively, Hasina said.
“With your help, we have succeeded in overcoming the crisis to some extent. We’re trying to keep the economy running with policy support and financial incentive packages.”
As of now, the government has offered 28 incentive packages worth Tk 1.8 trillion, with Tk 1.06 trillion already spent by October. Around 67.4 million people and 118,000 organisations have benefited from the packages, said Hasina.
Bangladesh’s economy grew 5.43 percent in the last fiscal year, despite the pandemic effects, winning praises for its better performance than its regional peers. Per capita income stood at $2,554 in 2021.