Disregard for masks and social distancing is undermining health directives made mandatory by the government in order to curb the spread of the new coronavirus
People in Rajshahi city are less and less mindful about the health safety guidelines imposed by the government to curb the spread of the new coronavirus. They continue to flout social distancing and disregard the mandatory use of masks in public places, increasing the risk of coronavirus infections.
With 51 new cases detected in Rajshahi, including 37 in the city on Monday, the total number of Covid-19 infected patients in the district has now reached 3,688.
Of them, 1,880 have so far recovered from the coronavirus with 30 fatalities, while the rest are being treated either in designated hospitals or at home.
Regardless of surging cases, the city is buzzing with people gathering in offices, shops, markets, alleys, and streets. These people are hardly using masks and maintaining physical distancing.
I recently visited some busy areas in the city including Court Bazar, Lakshmipur, Shaheb Bazar, New Market, Railgate, and Bhadra.
I found pedestrians, street vendors, transport workers, and passengers not using masks, and even if they were, they weren't properly covering their nose and mouth.
Arif Hossain, an auto-rickshaw driver in the city, said he had been wearing a mask since the beginning of the pandemic. “But often passengers do not want to wear masks and when they don’t police often stop the rickshaw and rebuke them. I have often been rebuked myself. It’s also true that because of the heat, I can't wear a mask all the time. Sometimes I take the mask off when I rest.”
Most people at shopping malls, restaurants, pharmacies and other markets in the city were without masks. On top of that, large crowds are gathering at the city’s kitchen markets every day.
Even in Lakshmipur—which is considered a virus hotspot and is supposed to have tight measures put in place by the district administration—most pharmacy salesmen weren’t wearing masks while serving customers. Most restaurants were also serving food in an unhealthy environment without following hygiene rules.
Amena Begum, a woman who had come to Rajshahi Medical College Hospital for treatment, said: “I thought the environment around the hospital would be clean especially during a pandemic. But I saw most people moving about unaware of the present threats. Besides, there aren’t any additional safety measures at pharmacies or restaurants, which was disappointing."
Meanwhile, any and all health directives were compromised at the Padma riverbank area as crowds of travel enthusiasts were out and about without masks, disregarding physical distancing.
Md Shojib, one such person there, said that even though he had been taking extra precautions during the pandemic he decided not to wear a mask to enjoy the fresh air.
In this regard, Rajshahi Additional Superintendent of Police Iftekhayer Alam said, they are working in coordination with the district administration as well as conducting awareness campaigns to curb the spread of the coronavirus infection. “Ensuring practice of health directives becomes difficult if the public isn’t self-aware and vigilant.”
In line with the ASP's statement, Deputy Commissioner Abdul Jalil said the district administration is conducting various public campaigns to raise awareness. “Two teams from the district administration are working every day to ensure the mandatory use of masks. Fines are also being levied for violating health codes.”
According to the district administration, 22 cases were registered on various charges, including disobeying government health directives, spreading infectious diseases, and concealing information.