In the face of exponentially higher daily coronavirus infection rates, the government on Monday issued a gazette notification containing 18 new directives aiming to combat this spike. One had hoped that the new directives from the government related to the Covid-19 pandemic would come sooner. The world is seeing another spike in the infection rates, and many countries, European ones in particular, are in complete lockdown. The dangerous aspect of the virus is that it has mutated into new strains that might be more infectious and more difficult to control. There are also concerns that vaccines developed so far may not provide as much protection against the newer strains.
In Bangladesh, unfortunately, we have, across the board, let our guards down over the past couple of months. Beginning in January, there was an untoward relaxation of protective measures (both at individual and collective levels), due to the reduced number of Covid-19 cases, and given the business-as-usual attitude, it seemed as if Covid-19 was history. Of course, that was not so, and we are learning it again the hard way. Health facilities, for one, have been saturated, with the number of infections and hospitalisations rising sharply.
While we commend the new restrictions, a few of the guidelines do require clarification. However, it is just as well that the confusion regarding quarantine of passengers has been clarified. From now on, incoming passengers from Europe will have to quarantine for 14 days in government facilities or government-approved hotels at their own expenses, and returnees from other regions will have to quarantine at home if they do not show symptoms upon their arrival in Bangladesh.
The new directives also mandate purchase and sale of daily necessities in open spaces, maintaining hygiene rules. But one wonders what would be the case for kitchen markets that are in enclosed areas, given that there are quite a few of those in Dhaka city. And what measure should shopping malls (enclosed and centrally air conditioned) apply to keep the number of people inside them to the level that the environment remains "safe"? It is imperative that these and any further directives from the government are not vague in any way, in order to eliminate all kinds of confusion during this crisis.
We believe that the administration should not rest by issuing directives only. It must also ensure that the suggested measures are followed strictly. For example, in the past, we had seen public transportation vehicles charging double the normal fare to defray the loss due to the restrictions in the number of passengers a bus could carry, yet carry the full capacity of passengers. One of the best ways of fighting the pandemic is to prevent its spread. The suggested measures will help in doing so, provided they are followed religiously. That must be ensured, and if needed, enforced.