Lax enforcement of 18-point directive leaving Covid-19 unchecked
Health experts have urged the government to be stricter on the enforcement of health guidelines to contain the resurgent Covid-19 pandemic.
The government on March 28 issued an 18-point directive, including a ban on all public gatherings, to bring the rising number of Covid-19 cases and deaths under control. However, the directive appears to have had little effect as the public continues to flout restrictions.
“Coronavirus has been spreading like a tsunami. The government should be stricter to control public gatherings at the hotspots, and people need to be careful as hospitals are almost at capacity. It is important for Bangladesh to take effective action without delay,” said public health expert Dr Lelin Choudhury.
Despite the ban on public gatherings, Islamist group Hefezat-e-Islam on Friday held a demonstration in front of the Baitul Mukarram National Mosque and hundreds of their followers gathered. People also attended Jummah prayers at mosques without maintaining social distancing.
Furthermore, nearly 123,000 students and their guardians gathered at the 15 centres for the medicine admission test in Dhaka, blatantly in violation of distancing measures.
On a visit to Malibagh and Karwan Bazar kitchen market on Friday, this correspondent found very few people maintaining social distancing. Many sellers and buyers were not wearing masks either.
Abdur Rouf, a volunteer with the Malibagh kitchen market committee, repeatedly urged the public to maintain social distancing and wear masks through loudspeaker, but no one seemed to hear him.
Traffic restrictions not heeded, govt offices changing rosters
Despite the government’s instructions to restrict or shut down inter-district vehicular movement to high-risk areas of infection, all vehicles, including public transports, are moving as normal. There appear to be no restrictions on travel to even the highest-risk districts of Dhaka and Narayanganj.
The Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) order for buses to carry passengers at 50% capacity is also being flouted, but the BRTA is yet to take any action. BRTA officials said mobile courts to enforce the guidelines will be conducted from Sunday.
Furthermore, the government plans to operate offices with 50% manpower, but the social distancing measure is yet to be put in place as many government offices are in the process of changing their rosters.
Farhad Hossain, state minister for the Ministry of Public Administration, said: “The rosters are being finalized. The plan is for the measure to be executed from Sunday.”
Unnecessarily roaming still rampant
Although the government directive bars roaming outdoors unnecessarily and after 10pm, except in emergency, many people were found to be socializing outdoors after 10 pm at Sukrabad, Farmgate, Karwan Bazar and Moghbazar.
Monowar Hossain, an employee of a private organization, was gossiping with his colleagues at Moghbazar.
“We aren't aware of the government instruction to stay home after 10,” he said.
Restaurants at Malibagh and Khilgaon were crowded on Thursday night.
According to the government’s instructions, hotels and restaurants are barred from serving clients at more than 50% capacity. City corporations have requested to close restaurants before 8pm.
“As people do not bother following the instructions, the government should do a massive campaign as well as impose area based lockdown to contain the virus,” said Dr Tarek Hossain, a public health expert and a former program coordinator at UNICEF.