Curbs in 7 Districts of Dhaka Division: Enforcement still falling short
As Covid-19 deaths and infections continue to rise, the government aims to enforce the ongoing restrictions in seven districts around Dhaka more strictly to guard the capital against the virus.
The government also plans to extend the restrictions, imposed till June 30, for a week, sources in the Cabinet Division told The Daily Star yesterday.
The extension may come at a time when experts are warning that the situation across the country may deteriorate in the coming days due to the lax enforcement of the Covid curbs.
If proper measures are not ensured right away, the situation may become like the one witnessed in India recently, they also warned.
Visiting different places of the seven districts yesterday, correspondents of this newspaper found that the "lockdown" was being enforced in a relaxed manner.
Most shops were open. Small vehicles like CNG-run auto-rickshaws, packed with passengers, plied the roads as buses remained parked inside depots.
Vehicles were even stuck in traffic in some of the districts. Also, hundreds of passengers crossed the Padma river through the Shimulia-Bangla Bazar ferry route on their way to Dhaka.
All this happened as the health crisis continues to deepen across the country.
The Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS) yesterday reported 85 more deaths from Covid-19, the highest single-day deaths recorded in nearly two months. Eighty-eight deaths were reported on April 29.
In 24 hours preceding 8:00am yesterday, 5,727 new infections were recorded, the DGHS said.
Yesterday, the positivity rate climbed to 20.27 percent, the highest in the last 71 days.
The Cabinet Division sources said the government was set to heighten the restrictions in the seven districts to save densely-populated Dhaka city from a Covid onslaught.
The sources also said the government is not currently considering putting the capital under lockdown.
The authorities plan to check public movement and ensure that no one in those seven districts leave their homes unless faced with emergencies.
Vehicle movement will be stopped completely and no one will be allowed to enter or exit those districts, the sources said.
Experts have, meanwhile, said Dhaka and all other districts in the country should be put under a strict lockdown immediately since the overall positivity rate is now over 15 percent.
Prof Ridwanur Rahman, an infectious disease specialist, said, "With these high positivity rates, a lockdown is needed in Dhaka city and other parts of the country. It is required to reduce the rush of patients at hospitals and to save lives."
He said the real situation, however, was still not known as there were not enough Covid tests.
Prof Ridwanur warned that without proper and immediate measures the situation may become as bad as the one faced by India recently.
Abu Jamil Faisel, member of the Epidemiology and Public Health Expert Committee of the DGHS, also suggested a countrywide lockdown.
"Without an enormous number of tests and isolating positive patients, the lockdown, however, will not be fruitful. We have been asking to increase tests since the beginning of the pandemic. It is still fewer than what is required," he said.
Talking to The Daily Star, a senior official of the Cabinet Division said the government was not thinking about a lockdown in the capital right now.
"Rather, we are trying to enforce restrictions more strictly in the seven districts surrounding Dhaka. We have already directed the deputy commissioners of those districts to ensure that the restrictions are followed properly," the official said, wishing not to be named.
"We are observing the situation in Dhaka. If the situation worsens, the government will act accordingly," he said.
In the wake of sharp spikes in Covid cases and deaths, the government on Monday imposed movement restrictions on the seven districts around Dhaka -- Manikganj, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Gazipur, Madaripur, Rajbari and Gopalganj -- to cut the capital off from rest of the country.
The following day, the government suspended all inter-district transports -- road, rail and waterway -- in a bid to stop people from entering and leaving Dhaka.
Talking to this daily, Health Minister Zahid Maleque said, "We have already enforced lockdowns in districts adjacent to Dhaka to keep the capital isolated. Dhaka is under a 'semi lockdown' now."
If the caseload increases sharply in Dhaka, it will be tough to manage the situation, he said.
Similar Covid curbs are currently in place at dozens of districts, upazilas and municipalities across the country.
Despite the restrictions, people were seen in Gazipur heading towards the capital throughout yesterday. As buses were parked inside depots, they travelled in rickshaws and auto-rickshaws, reported our correspondent in the district.
Even tailbacks of vehicles were seen at several places on the Dhaka-Gazipur road.
In Munshiganj, hundreds of passengers crossed the Padma river through the Shimulia-Bangla Bazar ferry route.
As per government instruction, operations of launches and speedboats remained suspended. But some ferries plied to carry goods. People scrambled to board them, reported our correspondent in the district.
Many used cars and CNG-run auto-rickshaws to reach the terminal.
"I've come here all the way from Narayanganj's Chashra. I came in an auto-rickshaw. I need to go to Barishal for an emergency," one Adnan Hossain said at the terminal around noon yesterday.
In Narayanganj, many vendors opened shops on the streets. A large number of rickshaws and auto-rickshaws were seen.
Many walked to their destination after failing to find any transport.
In Cumilla, long tailbacks appeared on Dhaka-Chattogram highway's Daudkandi area. It happened as police barred vehicles from going towards Munshiganj, said Jahurul Islam, officer-in-charge of Daudkandi highway police.
In Kushtia, where a seven-day lockdown has been underway since Monday, people continued to disregard the restrictions. Most people were seen without masks on the streets of Kushtia town.
In Satkhira, a lockdown has been in force for the last 19 days. However, cars, microbuses, easy-bikes and motorcycles operated on the roads in large numbers.
In Tangail, two municipalities passed the second day of a lockdown. Almost all shops, except those selling daily essentials and medicines, were kept shut. Vehicular movement was strictly restricted.
Meanwhile, fresh lockdowns were imposed for seven days yesterday at Benapole municipality and Sharsha upazila of Jashore as well as in Jibonnagar upazila of in Chuadanaga.
Besides, the Lalmonirhat district administration yesterday announced a seven-day lockdown from Saturday. A fresh seven-day restriction will begin in Rajshahi City Corporation area tomorrow.