Containment zones planned | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 02, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:42 AM, June 02, 2020

Containment zones planned

Capital, N’ganj, Gazipur to be designated as red zones; mayors of these 3 cities want total restriction on entry, exit

The government is likely to put the capital, Narayanganj and Gazipur in the "red zone" with severe restrictions in the wake of rising Covid-19 deaths and infections in the city areas.

The highly affected areas in the cities will be under a total lockdown for a certain period and instructions on health protocol in the zones will be given to prevent further spread of the virus, said sources.

The Chattogram city may also be put in the "red zone" if it sees a steady rise in coronavirus deaths and infections.

This was discussed at a high-profile meeting of government high-ups and the mayors of the three cities yesterday with Health Minister Zahid Maleque in the chair.

It was attended, among others, by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan and LGRD Minister Tajul Islam.

The mayors suggested that no one should be allowed to enter and leave the areas in Dhaka, Gazipur and Narayanganj cities for at least 15 days to prevent further spread of the virus, said meeting sources.

The meeting decided to divide all the areas affected by deadly virus into three zones -- red, yellow and green -- based on the severity of infections and death rates.

The "green zone" will be out of restrictions while the areas that have seen a low number of Covid-19 cases will be put in the "yellow zone" where movement of people, businesses and transport services will be allowed on "a limited scale".

But it will be up to the experts to set the criteria for the three zones.

If the number of infections goes up in any area or ward or upazila or district, it will be put in the "red zone", said the sources.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Zahid said, "The areas will be classified as red, green and yellow zones on the basis of death and infection rates."

"We sat today following the prime minister's instructions. Now we will make a specific plan and try to implement it together," he mentioned.

The development comes a day after the government eased the nationwide 66-day shutdown, ignoring warnings from experts. Transport services had remained suspended and most of the businesses and offices were closed during the period.

Offices, businesses and transport services resumed on Sunday on "a limited scale" despite a spike in the number of deaths and positive cases.

Twenty-two people died from Covid-19 in 24 hours till yesterday afternoon, taking the death toll to 672. And 2,381 people tested positive for the virus during the period, according to the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).

With this, the total number of infections stood at 49,532.

On May 28, the government's National Technical Advisory Committee suggested the withdrawal of closure in phases, warning that the situation might worsen if safety measures are not strictly implemented. But their recommendations went unheeded.

THE MEETING

The meeting decided to draw up a virus containment plan within two days in consultation with experts and epidemiologists and inform the mayors and district administrations on how to implement it.

"We will devise a plan. We discussed it here [at the meeting]. After preparing it, we all, including the home and LGRD ministries and mayors, will try to implement it," said the health minister.

Asked whether the capital, Narayanganj, Gazipur and Chattogram will be put in the "red zone", Zahid said these districts have high infection rates till date.

"Experts will decide on it. But I think these districts should be in the red zone since the number of infections is high."

He further said most of the districts and upazilas are still in good shape and they want to keep those in that state.

Replying to anther query, he said zone-wise categorisation will be done by analysing data on Covid-19 infections.

"For example, if an area inside the capital sees a high number of infections, the area will be locked down for a certain time. Experts will advise on the lockdown period."

According to a meeting source, security measures in the "red zone" will be strengthened so that no one can enter or go out of the area.

"We are already in a high-risk situation. So we all have to follow the health safety guidelines properly," the source quoted the health minister as saying.

At the meeting, the mayors expressed resentment at the fact that their suggestions were not sought before easing the shutdown.

When they wanted to know the specifics of the lockdown, they were told that people's movement in the affected areas will be restricted and shops will be closed. Only the shops selling essentials will be allowed to open, said the source.

They were also informed that if a person in any ward of the three cities undergoes a test for the virus, a copy of the test results will be sent to the ward councillor so that he remains aware of the situation in the area and take steps in line with the guidelines to be prepared by experts, said the source.

Besides, measures will be taken to prevent any outsider from entering an area that has seen a high number of infections.

Talking to reporters after the meeting, Asaduzzaman said, "The rate of infections is increasing every day and so is the number of tests."

"That's why we decided on zone-wise categorisation as per the instructions from the prime minister," he said.

The meeting was also attended by Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam; Principal Secretary at the PMO Ahmad Kaikaus; IEDCR Director Meerjady Sabrina Flora; Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Mohammad Atiqul Islam; Dhaka South City Corporation Mayor Fazle Noor Taposh; Narayanganj City Corporation Mayor Selina Hayat Ivy; Gazipur City Corporation Mayor Jahangir Ahmed and Inspector General of Police Benazir Ahmed.

GOVT OFFICES

As part of safety precautions against Covid-19, the government will not allow the presence of more than 25 percent of the officials and employees in offices at ministries and departments, said State Minister for Public Administration Farhad Hossain.

"We don't want to put employees at risk of infection. We will do only the necessary work with a minimum number of employees," he told reporters at the secretariat.

The private offices will make decisions on their own, keeping the safety guidelines in mind, he added.

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