Bangladesh will be under strict restrictions or lockdown from Thursday to curb the growing coronavirus infection. These restrictions will be in place from 8:00 am on 1 July to 12:00 midnight on 7 July. After the cabinet meeting on Monday, the cabinet secretary announced the government’s decision, saying people would not be able to leave their homes without emergency.
In addition to the police, BGB, battalion police and army will be on patrol to enforce strict restrictions. He also remarked that the lockdown could be extended for another week if necessary.
Earlier, the National Advisory Committee on Covid-19 recommended a shutdown to stem the sharp increase in the infections across the country.
Although the cabinet secretary clarified some issues in his speech, many things remained unclear. It has been said that people cannot leave their homes without emergency. But he did not clarify which activities will be defined as emergency. It has been said that unlike previous lockdown, ‘movement passes’ will not be provided to anyone. We anticipate that people involved in health care, media, gas, electricity and water services and public safety will be counted in emergency services.
But what will happen to the newly infected patients? Or if someone with Covid-19 or other disease has to be hospitalised, how will the patient be transported? Not everyone has personal vehicle. It is not clear whether personal vehicle can run during the lockdown. Similarly, for those who have already been admitted to the hospital, how will the people engaged in their care go to the hospital? On the other hand, no clear announcement has been made about financial institutions such as banks, readymade garments sector till this editorial was written.
Another important issue is what will happen to the extremely poor people whose livelihoods will be cut off due to the lockdown. In particular, rickshaw pullers, van drivers, auto-rickshaw drivers, day labourers, domestic workers and hawkers will be in trouble. They won’t be able to go to the village.
Does the government plan to give them food or money for 7 days or 15 days (as long as the lockdown lasts)? If so, how will it be distributed? Otherwise, the lives of a large number of people will be threatened along with their livelihood. The money that the Ministry of Finance has allocated for the victims of the lockdown will also be difficult to distribute within the lockdown.
There is public support for any drastic government measures to prevent coronavirus infection. But the work has to be done in a planned, scientific way. Repeatedly changing the decision will severely hamper the purpose of the lockdown. The task should not be limited to law enforcement or military patrols.
People from all walks of life such as local people’s representatives, political parties, social organisations, non-governmental organisations, students and youth should be involved. It is not possible for the administration to know what kind of problems there are in an area and what assistance is needed.
The big challenge of the lockdown is the Eid-ul-Azha is around the corner. Lockdown, whether severe or relaxing, is bound to be ineffective if the crowds centered around the cattle market cannot be stopped. We have to find alternative ways in this regard. The government must not only make the right decision on these issues, but also ensure the implementation of that decision properly.
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