Being first detected in March 2020, the coronavirus has spread all over Bangladesh, infecting over 778,687 people and causing death for 12,076 death as of 14th May of 2021. Upon the second wave of infection, the government of Bangladesh put forth 18-point directives on March 29 last and imposed a restriction from April 5 on the transport system and business enterprises. A major sect of citizens neglected to comply with the health guidelines and the infection rate continued increasing. Consequently, the government imposed a week-long strict lockdown from April 14, which was later extended till 28.
But the collective demand of the businessmen convinced the government to relax the strictness, allowing city shopping malls to open ahead of Eid on condition of obeying health guidelines. But neither shopkeepers nor customers were respectful to the law, and showed reluctance to wear face masks or maintain social distancing while shopping.Following days, despite the ban on plying public and private transports, many private-owned vehicles were rushing on roads, except the buses and launches. Consequently, the Covid-19 infection rate increased further in the country.
Bangladesh experienced peaks in coronavirus infections in June-July last year, recording 3,000-4,000 patients each day. But maintaining a rising trend since the second week of March, the infection rate started breaking the previous records of infections and death toll almost every day in the middle of April this year, which fortunately began lowering in the recent days of May.
Under such a situation and amid the strict lockdown, many citizens went to their village homes to celebrate Eid occasion with their near and dear ones, making heavy crowds on roads and ferry ghats, mostly violating health guidelines. After Eid, a similar situation is going on. The experts forecast the possibilities of a third wave if the influx of returnees cannot be controlled.
Give that, the government rightly extended the ongoing lockdown for seven more days, along with requesting people not to return to Dhaka before the lockdown ends. But turning a deaf ear to experts and the government's order, they are now coming to the workplace on their own advantageous time, creating massive gatherings at the ferries and bus terminals, as they did while leaving the city.
It is praiseworthy that the government is going to formulate a law concerning giving magistracy power to the police to ensure mask-wearing. Most of the experts support it as wearing masks is the only way to combat Covid-19 infections, especially in a country like Bangladesh, where a complete lockdown hinders the earning of the poor people.
But there remains a possibility of failure of the decision, as the tendency of the mass people to disobey law may compel police to do nothing but witness the situation. To avoid such a situation, we may shrink the size of returnees’ influx in the ferries or at bus terminals. For doing so, we may categorise the returnees based either on their professions or split the departure time of the specific Upazillas in the same districts. The prior one should consider the priority of professionals who are in urgent need to join the workplace.It would be better to split the declared lockdown on Upazilla basis of each district and align the transport systems accordingly. Whatever ways we adopt will find success if the returnees obey the government instruction. Our past experience made it clear that our people had less response to following the imposed regulations. In that case, polices’ magistracy power may work partly.
Some other ways may also be thought of with a view to reduce the heavy rushes in the ferries, launch ghats or at bus terminals to contain the spread of Covid-19. Experts forecast that the third wave, if hits, would be more aggravating than the second wave and even may cause to spread of the Indian variants that take huge tolls in India in recent time.
So, we have no other alternative but to adopt possible effective tries to combat the mass gathering of the returnees.
The writer is a Professor, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural