Experts say operating makeshift cattle markets by risking health protocols will be suicidal for Bangladesh
All makeshift cattle markets will remain in full operation, selling millions of animals for sacrifice to celebrate Eid-ul-Azha amid the pandemic.
The government has decided to set up temporary cattle markets across the country, including a clearly most-affected Dhaka city, thus ignoring suggestions to the contrary from public health experts.
The decision came at a virtual meeting held on Thursday with Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperative (LGRD) Minister Md Tajul Islam in the chair.
In Tajul Islam’s opinion, animal sacrifice was important for Muslims on Eid-ul-Azha. Therefore the government had permitted the setting up of makeshift cattle markets at allocated spaces.
“All makeshift cattle markets will be operated through following health guidelines while maintaining social distancing, as the coronavirus is spiking in the country,” he said after the meeting.
Experts said operating makeshift cattle markets by risking health protocol would be suicidal for Bangladesh.
“As thousands of sellers and buyers gather at cattle markets, it could turn into a major cluster for coronavirus infections,” said Prof Nazrul Islam, an eminent virologist.
“We should pick an alternative instead of the traditional markets, as we are passing through a dangerous time right now,” said Dr Nazrul Islam, who is a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee for Covid-19.
Meeting sources said local government organizations such as city corporations would form a market management committee for each cattle market in order to ensure health guidelines.
The management committees will supervise the enforcement of the guidelines through a wearing of masks.
Hand washing facilities to be arranged
Besides, lease holders of the makeshift cattle markets must arrange enough hand washing facilities and set up disinfection tunnels.
“A health guideline will be included into the work order for setting up temporary cattle markets. We will take legal action if any lease holders of cattle markets don’t follow the guidelines or violate the rules,” said Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) Mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh.
Speaking at the meeting, he said: “We have already formed makeshift market management committees in order to ensure health guidelines at cattle markets under DSCC. The committees will keep surveillance on all health-related issues at the cattle markets.”
“The city corporations will also operate mobile courts and take legal action against violators of the health guidelines,” he added.
He further said that the makeshift markets would be allowed for three to five days. “We will fix the distance between two cows in the market to ensure social distancing.”
“We will give directives to the relevant authorities to allow one-way traffic at the cattle market areas of the city to reduce overcrowding,” he told the meeting.
‘Not vital during pandemic’
However, measures to check the temperature of people, who will gather at the cattle markets from all parts of the country, were not discussed at the meeting.
Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, public health expert Dr Lilin Chawdhury, said: “Such decisions as maintaining health guidelines will not be effective in the cattle market. Our assumption is the coronavirus situation will worsen by the end of July. Around that time, if cattle markets operate in Dhaka, that will not only work against public health, but will also be suicidal for the nation.”
“It is not vital during a pandemic. Cattle markets should not be allowed this year unless we are prepared to face more crises,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Despite the government allowing three to five days for the makeshift cattle markets, sales of cattle usually commence a week before Eid-ul-Azha across the country. The second major festival for Muslims, after Eid-ul-Fitr, is scheduled to be celebrated on August 1, depending on the sighting of the moon.
The government usually allows 1,250-1,300 temporary cattle markets across the country. However, the numbers go up to over 2,000, including illegal cattle markets, where hundreds of thousands of people gather along with millions of livestock.
Meanwhile, the two city corporations in Dhaka floated tenders separately last week on the setting up of 24 temporary cattle markets.
Dhaka North and South city corporations (DNCC, DSCC) will sanction 14 and 10 temporary cattle markets respectively.