There is no alternative to shutting down the border districts in a hard lockdown
It is nothing short of alarming to see that seven districts at the India border have experienced spikes in Covid-19 infections: Jessore, Satkhira, Jhenaidah, Chuadanga, Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, and Sylhet.
While at this time it is not yet clear how much of these cases are of the deadlier Indian variant, one thing is for certain: The increased commuting across districts after Eid is what contributed to this rise. After so much progress was made in the month of April, it is deflating to see the reckless behaviour of citizens push us back to square one. Indeed, lifting the inter-district travel restrictions appears premature, especially in the face of a new and largely untested threat.
What Chapainawabganj is now doing in response is exemplary, and other districts must do the same. The district administration has imposed a strict seven-day lockdown amid the surge in infection. This is the only way: Hospitals are struggling to accommodate patients, and the deputy commissioner has described the situation as severe
But equally to the point, travel in and out of these heavily-stricken border districts must be stopped immediately. We cannot take the risk of this new wave of infections spreading across the country. We especially cannot take the risk that the new Indian variant of the virus will spread across the country.
It is disheartening to hear reports of frequent movement, both legal and illegal, along and across the border. The Bangladesh government had done the right thing by closing the India border, but the reality is, movement is still happening, and the Indian variant must be slipping through. Right now, the simple truth is that we do not know how prevalent the India variant is within Bangladesh, nor how bad things will get in the weeks and months to come.
Given the recent rise in cases in the border districts, and the risk of the Indian variant spreading throughout the country, there is no alternative to shutting down the border districts in a hard lockdown and at the same time shutting down traffic in and out of these districts. This could be the difference between Bangladesh continuing to keep our head above water and being swamped with a volume of infections we are simply not equipped to manage.
This is not a time to relax measures. This is the time for greater caution than ever, and if this means that the government needs to put in place tough measures to ensure that the law is followed so that public health and safety is protected, then it must do so. We cannot afford to let our guard down now.