Ignoring suggestions of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) on Covid-19, 18 cattle markets were set up in the capital with a promise to maintain health guidelines as a preventive measure against the pandemic.
Health regulations, however, are completely being flouted at most of the markets.
During a visit to at least five cattle markets -- including Gabtoli, Kachukhet, Sadeque Hossain Khoka playground -- in the last couple of days, it was seen that most buyers, sellers, and visitors completely ignored the rules. Rather than maintaining distance, people were seen huddling and moving in groups.
Though the two city mayors directed all the lessees of 17 cattle markets (one was set up by the cantonment board) to follow the guidelines -- wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, spraying disinfects and facilities to wash hands, among others -- strictly, they hardly seemed to pay any heed.
According to public health experts, the country may face an acceleration in the already growing number of Covid-19 cases if the government failed to ensure the maintenance of health guidelines in cattle markets ahead of Eid-ul-Azha.
Visiting the market near Sadeque Hossain Khoka playground yesterday afternoon, these correspondents saw that many traders were selling cattle on roads, that too without maintaining any mandatory distancing.
Inside the market, 90 percent traders did not wear masks. There was no announcement through loudspeakers to maintain distance or wear masks -- a major health rule to follow at the markets. There was no setup for washing hands either.
The same situation prevailed at Gabtoli, Meradia and Kachukhet cattle markets.
Shah Alam, a cattle trader from Kushtia who brought 16 bulls at Gabtoli, tried to evade the question when this newspaper asked him why he was not wearing a mask. "We are aware of the health guidelines but we are not used to wearing masks all the time, that too, in this weather," he said.
Many others echoed him.
On the other hand, those in-charge of the markets tried to avoid responsibility and blame traders.
Mohammad Hanif, in-charge of maintaining health guidelines at Sadeque Hossain Khoka cattle market, said they requested traders to follow the guidelines but to no avail.
He also said they will take necessary steps to aware traders through loudspeakers and set up a hand wash facility by tonight (yesterday night).
At Kachukhet market, only a handful of buyers and traders were seen wearing masks and maintaining distance.
Mohammad Shamim Al Razi, a veterinary surgeon at the market, said as the place was small, maintaining physical distance was quite difficult.
WARNINGS FELL ON DEAF EARS
Dr Md Shahidullah, president of NTAC, told The Daily Star that if the city corporations arrange cattle markets in the four cities -- Dhaka, Chattogram, Gazipur and Narayanganj -- rate of infection, which is now stable, will increase after Eid.
The committee suggested not to set up markets in the four cities because 76 percent of Covid-19 cases are from there. He suggested running online markets and strictly maintaining health guidelines.
As Covid-19 is not yet under control, the national committee, in its 14th meeting, suggested implementing strict control activities in Dhaka and nearby areas.
NTAC's seven-point suggestion regarding cattle markets include not setting up markets inside towns; setting up in open spaces; not allowing entry to the elderly or sick; having separate entry and exit paths; and sacrificing cattle at fixed locations instead of at home.
Contacted, Rasel Sabrin, chief estate officer of Dhaka South City Corporation, said they are trying to maintain and ensure health guidelines at the markets. "We have also set up mobile courts in this regard."
When informed about the health regulations being flouted as seen by these correspondents, he said they will double their efforts to make sure such irregularities do not take place anymore.