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Public perceptions of the COVID-19 pandemic management in Bangladesh: a qualitative exploration  [version 1; peer review: 2 approved with reservations]

02, March 2021 |


Joarder T. Khaled M.N.B. Joarder M.A.I


Background: Since the emergence of the COVID-19 outbreak, Government of Bangladesh (GoB) has taken various measures to restrict virus transmission and inform the people of the situation. However, the success of such measures largely depends on a positive public perception of the government’s ability to act decisively and the transparency of its communication. We explored public perceptions of pandemic management efforts by the Bangladeshi health sector decision-makers in this study. Methods: As this qualitative research was conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic, data was gathered through seven online mixed- gender focus group discussions involving 50 purposively selected clinicians and non-clinicians. Results: The study participants concurred that, from the outset, decision-makers failed to engage the right kind of experts, which resulted in poor pandemic management that included imposing lockdown in periphery areas without arranging patient transport to the center, declaring certain hospitals as COVID-19 dedicated without preparing the facilities or the staff, and engaging private hospitals in care without allowing them to test the patients for COVID-19 infection. Several participants also commented on ineffective actions on behalf of the GoB, such as imposing home quarantine instead of institutional, corruption, miscommunication, and inadequate private sector regulation. The perception of the people regarding service providers is that they lacked responsiveness in providing treatment, with some doctors misleading the public by sharing misinformation. Service providers, on the other hand, observed that decision-makers failed to provide them with proper training, personal protective equipment, and workplace security, which has resulted in a high number of deaths among medical staff. Conclusions: The Bangladeshi health sector decision-makers should learn from their mistakes to prevent further unnecessary loss of life and long-term economic downturn. They should adopt a science-based response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the short term while striving to develop a more resilient health system in the long run.