Health Desk – 03 Apr, 2021: According to a report on Thursday, the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19 has recommended “partial or modified” lockdown of “high-risk” areas in Bangladesh. The NTAC chief informed the media that this would involve identifying and isolating Covid-19 patients and ensuring that the patients and their whole families remain in quarantine while they receive treatment. So far, Dhaka, Narayanganj and Chattogram have been classified as high-risk zones and the four districts of Rangamati, Rajshahi, Rajbari and Narsingdi have been classified as medium-risk zones.
Last year, we saw the detrimental impacts of a nation-wide lockdown in the wake of Covid-19, especially on low-income, subsistence workers and workers who are dependent on daily wages. As such, the idea of a partial lockdown in high-risk zones sounds like a good one, at least on the surface. However, there are a number of issues with this plan, the most obvious being that many Covid-19 patients are asymptomatic, at least in the first few days of infection, and could easily transmit the virus before they even realise that they are infected. While the isolation and quarantine of Covid-19 patients should, of course, be practiced, there are a number of other steps that the government needs to take to stop the transmission of the virus in these high-risk zones, including proper implementation of the recent 18-point directives to ensure that large gatherings are no longer allowed and that all health and safety protocols are being maintained.
The number of Covid-19 cases in Bangladesh has surged over the last three weeks, but the decisions taken by the authorities have so far seemed unplanned and haphazard. The hasty decision to half the passenger capacity of public transport and hike bus fares by 60 percent, without enforcing clear directives on the operating capacities of offices and other workplaces, almost all of which are operating at fully capacity, is an example of this. The end result is that during these difficult times, the sufferings of ordinary people have only been exacerbated.
We agree that urgent actions need to be taken in the Covid-19 hotspots in Bangladesh. However, we urge the authorities to ensure that these actions are taken swiftly but not hastily—there must be a coordinated and systemic plan with regard to these partial lockdowns and they must be enforced properly.