It is a truly shameful situation. The Italian government, on the verge of beating back the COVID-19 pandemic's local outbreak that ravaged one of Europe's most highly-rated healthcare systems and killed over 35,000 people, was forced to ban arrivals from Bangladesh until Oct 5 amid a scandal over fake coronavirus certificates, after after 21 passengers arriving from Dhaka on a chartered flight of Biman Bangladesh on July 7 tested positive, to add to 10 more members of the community living in the Lazio region around Rome who were found infected the previous week.
These people had all travelled with fake certificates certifying that they had all cleared the virus. Italian newspaper Il Massagero quoted the health councillor of Lazio saying in Dhaka it is possible to purchase bogus health certificates for as little as €36, allowing citizens to leave the country despite being potentially infected. The Lazio Region is currently undertaking "blanket testing" for Covid-19 among the local Bangladeshi community. Although previously countries such as Taiwan and Japan have reported finding infected passengers on flights from Bangladesh, it was the news coming from Italy that got the authorities finally moving, and this week, RAB moved in to shut down and seal all activities of two branches of Regent Hospital in Uttara and Mirpur over the allegations related to issuing fake Covid-19 certificates and other forms of misconduct.
RAB also made 8 arrests during their raids but the chairman of the group, an opportunist about whom the truth is only now coming out, has managed to avoid capture till the time of writing. A prominent face on the talk-show circuit vociferously defending the government, not only did he force his employees to print out hundreds of fake Covid-19 results, he also billed the government huge sums for the treatment and care of coronavirus patients, while in reality, no such service was provided. The question still remains as to how did the government, more specifically the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), sign a contract with a hospital that did not get its license renewed for the past six years to operate as a Covid-19 dedicated hospital, one of only two such private hospitals at the time. It follows the rank corruption exploiting people's vulnerabilities that was uncovered in the case of the JKG Group, and others involved in an earlier scandal revolving around the supply of N95 masks.
These incidences of corruption directly seeking to take advantage of a pandemic, incredulous as they may seem, speak to the systemic nature of the phenomenon that has manifested itself in Bangladesh. Some people have lost all vestige of humanity in their drive to profiteer and prosper it would seem, and to do so illegally. The authorities must do their utmost to stamp it out, for otherwise our international image is set to take a battering in the days ahead.
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