The government issued 18-point new directives on 29th March (Monday), amid the sharp rise in Covid cases. The directives include restrictions on social gatherings and extension of closure of educational institutions, with immediate effect.
The gazette notification was authorized by Ahmad Kaikaus, principal secretary to the prime minister.
However, according to the experts – the 18-point directive that the government issued to curb the rapid surge in Covid cases is not only a delayed response but it also lacks clarity.
Experts put strong recommendations on imposing a lockdown in the Covid hotspots in Dhaka and Chattogram as daily cases crossing the 5,000 mark for the last couple of days.
Md Sayedur Rahman, chairman of pharmacology department at BSMMU said, “I would say it is too late to issue such notifications. The daily infection positivity rate has risen to 18.94 percent from 2.30 percent. Now it is high time to enforce curfew in big cities. The hotspots where the positivity rate is high should be isolated from the rest of the country.”
In addition, the country recorded 5,042 cases and 45 deaths in 24 hours till 8:00am, as of 30th March (Tuesday). Besides, 5,181 cases – the highest in a day have been recorded since the pandemic hit the country in March last year.
The directive read, the number of participants at public meetings must be kept at a limited scale and no gatherings will be allowed in the areas seeing high virus transmission.
Nonetheless, the government is yet to publish the list of such areas.
A source in the health directorate, however, said the government has classified Dhaka, Narayanganj and Chattogram as “high risk” zones. Four districts – Rangamati, Rajshahi, Rajbari and Narsingdi; have been classified as “medium risk” zones and 27 more as “low risk” zones.
Public transports cannot carry passengers more than 50 percent of their capacity and must follow the Covid-19 guidelines.
Inter-district transport services must be kept at a limited scale in areas seeing high infections. If necessary, such services have to be suspended.
Besides, gatherings must be at a limited scale at entertainment venues and tourist destinations. All kinds of fair and exhibition are discouraged.
In the meantime, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh announced that all passengers from the UK and other European countries have to go through 14-day mandatory institutional quarantine.
An official of Dhaka district administration stated they were yet to decide on the action plan.
“There is no plan to enforce lockdown in Dhaka. But we will run mobile courts and campaigns to enforce health safety guidelines from 31st March (Wednesday),” added the official.
The district administration in Cox’s Bazar, has started conducting mobile courts as well as awareness campaigns.
“We already had meetings with different stakeholders, including hotel and transport owners… We asked them to suspend hotel booking online and reduce different amusement services at the sea beach. Our target is to discourage tourists from visiting Cox’s Bazar,” said Zahid Iqbal, additional deputy commissioner of Cox’s Bazar.
An infectious disease specialist, Prof Ridwanur Rahman said about the directives, “Science is absent in the government directives. It will have no effect on the Covid transmission.”
“While the government has banned mass gatherings, the Sadarghat launch terminal in the capital, the book fair venues, and tourist spots in Cox’s Bazar, Rangamati [and other areas] are open. Transmission will not decline this way. It will keep rising.”
He recommended full lockdown in the capital and Chattogram city immediately.
“We need a full lockdown right now in Dhaka and Chattogram cities but there could be some exemptions only to continue economic activities. And the first and foremost task is to conduct a huge number of tests daily to isolate the Covid cases. Otherwise, the infected ones will keep spreading the virus.”
The government should take all measures to keep the infected people in quarantine or at hospital, he noted.
Dr Mushtuq Hussain, consultant at the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research, said, “Though there is a need for lockdown, we will also have to consider the socio-economic reality.
“Current measures are target-based. If these do not work, we will suggest the government new measures. But hopefully this will help reduce transmission.”