Government should enforce total restrictions on social, recreational activities while allowing businesses to continue in limited capacity
The 18-point directive issued by the government last week needs to be clearer and stronger to effectively combat the recent surge in Covid-19 cases, health experts have said.
They also warned that delays in the imposition of stricter health guidelines might lead to a further spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths, eventually forcing the country to go into complete lockdown, as in March last year.
The 18-point directive instructs a limit to gatherings at all types of events, whether social, political or religious. It also prohibits buses from carrying more than 50% of their passenger capacity, among other restrictions, to facilitate social distancing.
Only discouraging gatherings not enough
Dr Shahriar Rozen, policy lead at the Alberta Ministry of Health in Canada and former research fellow at iccdr,b, told Dhaka Tribune: “It is not enough to just discourage public gatherings. The directive needs to give the clear message that they must be followed.
“Data from various countries clearly shows that public movement and mass gatherings are among the major causes of the spread of Covid-19. Therefore, the government needs to immediately prohibit all kinds of public gatherings, as well as close recreational centres, parks and festivals,” he added.
The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Bangladesh stood at 630,277 on Monday, while the total number of deaths climbed to 9,213.
According to official data, the country on Saturday recorded its highest ever seven-day moving average of daily Covid deaths – 49.14 – since the pandemic broke out in March 2020.
Dr Rozen said Covid-19 control approaches need to be based on the number of hospitalizations and ICU admissions, or there is a risk that hospitals and health workers will be overwhelmed. He also suggested revisiting the zonal containment guideline that the government developed last year.
“There need to be total restrictions on social gatherings and recreational activities, while business and commercial activities may be allowed to continue with limited restrictions. This will lessen the impact of restrictions on the economy,” he added.
“Recreational activities like book fairs and exhibitions can be moved to the virtual space,” Dr Rozen further said.
Directive on patient care needed
Dr Nazrul Islam, an eminent virologist and member of the National Technical Advisory Committee on Covid-19, pointed out that the directive did not mention anything about patient care when it should be given prominence considering the mounting pressure on hospitals.
“The directive urges people to take preventive measures to control the spread, but it needs to add a few more points about what people should do if they contract the virus,” he told this correspondent.
He also said a few of the points in the directive were impractical and difficult to execute.
“Take the example of the restrictions on public transports. If they are only allowed to carry 50% of their passenger capacity, Dhaka needs twice the number of buses we have right now for commuters. I do not think this is feasible,” Dr Nazrul said.
However, he lauded the government's decision to delay the reopening of educational institutions.
“I do not think it is a good idea to reopen schools, as too many people will be out in the morning and it would increase the infection rate,” he said.
The government has extended the ongoing closure of all primary schools and kindergartens of the country till May 22 considering the rising number of Covid-19 cases and deaths.