The government has relaxed lockdown restrictions and given order to reopen stores and shopping malls across the country. The decision is made to save the lives of businessmen and employees. Although honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina encouraged people to shop online, which emboldened the e-commerce industry to expand their fields, it is true that a huge number of businessmen do not have online versions of their business. Moreover, to the businessmen, Eid-ul-Fitr is a bonanza. This is the time when buyers and sellers add joy to their lives. Hence, the shopping malls reopened on 25 April.
However, the government has declared to maintain social distancing and hygiene. Legal actions are to be taken if the hygiene rules are not obeyed. But, several shopping malls and markets are spotted crowded from the very first day. The desire to shop from different stores has returned like the repressed! From the photos published in several dailies, we can clearly see the contraventions of hygiene rules. Wearing masks is not the only rule to be followed. The equal-most important rule is to maintain social distancing. However, buyers, especially female ones, are seen gathered very closely in a small store to check out their favourite clothing items.In a few stores, even the shopkeepers are found without their masks on. Authorities have asked the visitors to wear masks and sanitize their hands before they enter. So, there are security guards holding bottles of sanitizers in almost all the entry points of the malls. Nonetheless, the malls are very spacious and full of small, medium and big stores. Are all the stores individually keeping sanitizing tools at their shops? This is a question we should ask ourselves before we think of entering the malls.
Let me share my first-hand experience. I went to the shopping complex, which is very close to my place, to buy diapers for my toddler. The security guard had the sanitizer in his hand but did not ask me to sanitize my hands before entering. I looked at him, asked and he waved his hand to let me in. I always carry a mini sanitizer in my bag. So, I sanitized myself. As I entered, I saw no crowd at all. Only a handful of visitors were checking in and out different stores. It was probably because I chose to go there at noon when people do not usually visit the malls.
From my end, I was sweating like rain. I was grossed out. But I did not pull down my mask even for a second. However, I found the shopkeepers without their masks. Therefore, I bought the diapers, rushed back home and had a shower before touching my kids. Now, the question is, how long will we remain safe by shopping from the malls if the employees themselves do not maintain hygiene? Our Eid shopping may return into CovEid shopping if we, both the sellers and buyers, act insensibly and then blame each other.
The situation in our country is derogating day by day. India, our neighbouring country, is suffering from massive loss. Can we afford to face this sort of loss before Eid? Again, if we, the buyers, do not go to the malls and buy things, the businessmen will have to starve with their entire families. It is a dangerous game in which we can merely guarantee any victory. Whichever action we take, we will lose either this or that.
A fall into the pit of Covid-19 will not bring any gain in our wit. It is a pitfall that will only bring misfortune, endless suffering and immeasurable losses. So, before going to shopping malls, ask yourself, are you going to Eid shopping or CovEid shopping? It is indeed joyful to wear new clothes on Eid. However, there will be greater distress if something terrible happens to us or our close ones.
Therefore, it is better to handle the situation sensibly. We need to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Countless people went under the poverty line due to this pandemic. On this note, let me also mention that the treatment of Covid-19 costs beyond the affordability of most of the ordinary people of Bangladesh. It is important to remain healthy and at the same time earn livelihood safely.
The writer is a lecturer, Department of English Language and Literature, Premier University Chittagong