Countrywide lockdown finally
The government has at last opted for what it terms as a "complete" and "strict" lockdown of the country from July 1, having earlier announced that the lockdown would commence from June 28th. Ostensibly, the matter of financial year-ending had to do with the change. However, we believe that the countrywide lockdown should have come much earlier. The idea of sanitising Dhaka by cutting it off from the worst affected border districts was not a complete step to stem the onslaught of the pandemic. By the time the border districts came under lockdown the virus had already been transmitted to other parts of the country including the capital. We often overlook the reality that Dhaka can be safe only when the periphery, the districts are safe. The half-hearted lockdowns have been illusory and self-defeating at best.
But better late than never. Having said that, we must emphasise that the kind of lockdown we have been seeing over the last one month will not do. It is highly discouraging to see that even in the seven worst affected districts life has been going on as if the virus did not exist at all. The burden of responsibility falls on the local administration to ensure that the lockdown is observed strictly.
Lockdown has its downsides, but human life is more important and that should have taken priority over all other considerations, year-ending or no year-ending. We welcome the news that the government is working to take necessary measures to provide cash assistance and food, including rice, edible oil and other commodities to the poor who are going to feel the crunch during the countrywide "strict lockdown" to be imposed from Thursday. One of the reasons that the administration could not enforce the recent lockdown is the absence of any measure by the government to provide sustenance to those that live hand to mouth. But the administration must ensure that the task of distributing relief materials is not entrusted on the local party men. Last year's bitter experience should not be forgotten.
We would also like to suggest that while lockdown is one of the means of stopping the spread of the virus it would not be effective if other associated measures are not followed. And we have a good example in India from whose experience we can benefit. Given the very high positivity rate in a very large number of districts, number of testing facilities must be enhanced and more people need to be screened by testing for the virus. Along with that, those found to be positive should be isolated immediately. The health guidelines of wearing masks and social distancing must be enforced in public spaces, especially in kitchen markets both during and after the lockdown. It is worth repeating too that our health facilities are inadequate and all efforts must be made to provide more oxygen, more beds and more ICU facilities. These should be done on a war footing because it is a war-like situation that we are facing.