Lockdowns do come but only too late
On May 29, the Epidemiology and Public Health Committee of DGHS recommended strict and immediate "lockdown" on seven districts where the Delta variant of coronavirus started transmitting in the communities.
But the government again failed to act on time and delayed implementing the recommendation.
Following the committee's recommendation, the cabinet on May 31 asked officials in the seven districts of Khulna and Rajshahi divisions to take measures. But enforcement of the lockdown was delayed again to save people's livelihood during the mango-harvesting season.
The lockdowns were imposed recently, but those seven districts and many others have turned into Covid-19 hotspots.
The districts recommended for lockdown were Naogaon, Rajshahi, Natore, Kushtia, Jashore, Khulna and Satkhira, and many of them have been under such restrictions for the last 10 days.
Meanwhile, the overall Covid situation across the country is worsening by the day.
Yesterday, 67 deaths -- the highest since May 2 -- were reported by the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS). The positivity rate rose to 18.02 percent. It was only 7.91 percent on May 29.
Experts said the situation has turned so bad that one more slack measure to curb the virus can be disastrous.
"It's already too late. When you delay enforcing lockdown even for a single day, the number of patients increases across the country. The government has already wasted too much time," Prof Nazrul Islam, member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19, told The Daily Star yesterday.
In some of the seven districts, one in every two people tested is turns out to be positive for coronavirus. Dozens of deaths are reported there every day, shows DGHS data.
Many are dying without treatment as hospitals there have been at capacity.
Besides, the number of high-risk districts rose to 54 yesterday from 36 on June 3, DGHS data shows.
A district is considered high-risk if it has the infection rate or positivity rate of 10 percent and above, according to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research.
With the highest 24 Covid-19 deaths reported in Khulna, the district administration yesterday decided to enforce movement restriction from Tuesday.
So far, a total of 12 districts slapped restrictions to curb the skyrocketing community transmission of the Delta variant of coronavirus.
The situation is particularly bad in Satkhira, Khulna, Bagerhat, Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj, Bogura, Natore, Kushtia, Chuadanga, Noakhali, Jamalpur and Dinajpur.
Compared to the previous week, the number of new cases has risen by 55.16 percent and deaths by 46.30 percent in the seven days until yesterday, the data shows.
"As the countrywide positivity rate is more than 15 percent, there is no alternative to a countrywide lockdown. And to make the lockdown fruitful, there must be an enormous number of daily tests. But the government has never done this," Prof Ridwanur Rahman, an infectious diseases specialist, told The Daily Star yesterday.
"The government didn't mean what they said about lockdown. The government steps are just for show. As a result, the people are too reluctant to adhere to the health safety guidelines."
He said the lack of coordination among different government bodies has been causing the loss of lives and livelihood since the beginning of Covid-19 outbreak.
DGHS Director General Prof ABM Khurshid Alam also agreed that the lockdown in different districts so far has not been enforced on time.
"It is proven that lockdown is an effective way of curbing the spread of the virus… However, the health directorate is not the only authority to decide on and execute lockdowns," he said.
The DG said a really strict lockdown was not there. "But the lockdown is in effect in some places."
Health officials will decide the next course of action soon, he added.
"When community transmission continues, there is no alternative to enforcing a countrywide lockdown. We will ask for it again. We will sit to discuss the issue soon."
On multiple occasions before, health experts blamed the government for not taking strict measures like closing of airports and ensuring health rules on time to tackle transmission rates.