We are worried at the way hundreds of people left the capital after the government announced a ten-day general holiday starting from today till April 4. Although the government announced closure of all public and private offices for the same period as part of its efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19, and also asked people to stay home, the declaration of a "holiday" could be self-defeating. As hundreds of city-dwellers boarded buses, trains and launches to go to their village homes, we fear that this could further help spread the virus throughout the country. The rush of home-bound people was so much on Tuesday that the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation was forced to carry only passengers, instead of vehicles, on ferries on the Shimulia-Kathalbari route in the Padma river. And all this happened due to a lack of foresight and proper planning on the part of the government to handle the spread of the pandemic.
What the government should have done instead was declare a medical emergency, raise awareness among the public about the importance of staying in their homes, and publicise the WHO directives about travelling and personal hygiene, including washing hands properly and frequently, as much as possible.
The lack of proper planning was evident from the very beginning of the crisis when the government failed to quarantine the returnees from foreign countries, at the beginning of this month. And even after some Covid-19 cases were confirmed by the IEDCR, necessary steps to contain the virus were not taken. There has always been a lack of coordination among different government bodies and experts in dealing with the situation. Declaring a general holiday without clear-cut directives regarding social distancing and staying home was not a wise move. We think a medical emergency, not a general holiday, should have been announced to contain the spread of this highly contagious and deadly virus.
However, there is still so much the government can do in this regard. From now on, it should take every step by consulting and coordinating with the health experts and all the agencies concerned. It should also make all the committees formed at the district and upazila levels effective so that they can raise awareness even among the most vulnerable section of the society. And if people do not take "social distancing" seriously, the government should also consider imposing more stringent measures in the country.