Health Desk- 01 July, 2020: Jatiya Party and BNP MPs have poured scorn on Zahid Malik as they demanded his removal as health minister citing ‘mismanagement, corruption and lack of coordination’ in the handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in Bangladesh.
They recommended that former agriculture minister Matia Chowdhury replace him.
Zahid, however, looked to ride the current wave of criticism by denying all allegations against him to retain his job. He highlighted the areas where Bangladesh improved in combating the pandemic over the last three months.
He claimed that the COVID-19 mortality rate in Bangladesh was lower than that of India, the United States and the United Kingdom due to the coordinated efforts.
Several MPs ripped into the health minister during a session on the proposed national budget for the upcoming fiscal year on Tuesday.
Leader of the House Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the proceedings.
Responding to the criticism over lack of ICUs and mechanical ventilators, the health minister questioned the need for ventilators as almost all of those who were given artificial breathing support had died.
“We have 400 ventilators and hardly used 50 of them,” he said and added that 10,000 new oxygen cylinders have been manufactured while a total of around 3 millions PPEs supplied as he elaborated on a "more controlled" situation now.
Zahid added that the government has placed screening facilities in all ports, set up COVID-19 treatment centres in all districts and formed a national-level committee. All these helped maintain a mortality rate of 1.26 percent which is lower than India’s (6 percent), the US' (15 percent) and the UK's (14 percent).
He also pointed out that a total of 2,000 additional doctors and 6,000 nurses have been recruited exclusively to combat the pandemic crisis while an active hotline is providing assistance to the people in need.
According to the minister, 80 percent of the patients show no symptoms at all, 15 percent show mild symptoms while the remaining 5 percent require treatment.
Shedding light on the testing capacity of Bangladesh, Zahid said there was only one laboratory before. Over the last one and a half months 69 labs have been developed, which can conduct 18,000 tests a day.
He denied the accusations of a lack of coordination. “We’ve been on the ground for five months. We built a 2,000-bed hospital in Bashundhara in 25 days. We’ll be able to fend off COVID-19 if everybody cooperates.”
Zahid was critical of the media saying, “If the press keeps spreading reports of death and bad news, I think it will mentally affect the young generation and the elderly as well.”
The minister emphasised complying to health directives to reduce the rate of transmission.