Fresh curbs in surrounding districts: Dhaka to remain almost cut off
The government has imposed movement restrictions on seven districts near Dhaka for nine days starting today, almost shutting off the capital from the rest of the country in the wake of sharp spikes in Covid-19 cases and deaths.
The daily positivity rate yesterday was 19.27 percent, the highest since April 17 when the country was at the height of the second wave of the pandemic.
The death rate is currently 1.59 percent, with 78 deaths reported yesterday -- the highest number of single-day deaths reported since May 2.
The restrictions -- from 6:00am today till midnight on June 30 -- will specifically bar the movement of people in and out of the districts near the capital, according to a circular issued by the Cabinet Division.
This curb will result in blocking off the capital from people of the rest of the country. The city will only be accessible through a small portion of the boundary the capital shares with Tangail district, but no major highway leads into Dhaka through that part.
In another development, Khulna's district administration announced a weeklong lockdown for the whole district starting today. In a deviation from the norms, the circular issued by the district administration specifically used the word "lockdown".
According to the Cabinet Division circular, the districts put under movement restrictions near the capital are Manikganj, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Gazipur, Madaripur, Rajbari and Gopalganj. The first four are districts that border Dhaka.
"Everything will be closed. People will not be able to move about. The districts will be completely blocked off; nobody will be able to enter or exit," said Cabinet Division Secretary Md Rezaul Islam.
The circular said the decision was made "taking into consideration the Covid situation across the country".
Sources in the health ministry said they have been recommending for weeks that Dhaka be cut off, ever since the more contagious Delta variant -- first found in India -- was detected in the border districts.
The decision to curb movement in the districts surrounding the capital has come after Sunday saw a jump in the number of single-day deaths.
All government and private offices -- except for those providing essential services such as post, utilities, internet and telecommunications -- will have to remain closed. The press too is exempted.
Only ambulances, and vehicles carrying goods, relief, health services and essential goods would be allowed to move about. Staff vehicles of essential providers are also exempted.
All long-route buses from Dhaka will remain suspended from today, Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) officials and road transport leaders confirmed to The Daily Star last night.
All launch services, speedboats and passenger trawler services along Mushiganj's Shimulia and Madaripur's Banglabazar water routes will also remain suspended until June 30, said Md Shahadat Hossain, the assistant director of Shimulia river port's river safety and traffic operations division.
The naval police and the local administration have been informed to take action in this regard, he said. A total of 87 launches operate on this route.
Shafiqul Islam, assistant general manager of Shimulia Terminal of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC), said emergency services such as ambulances, freight trucks and pickups can cross on ferries. However, passenger transport will not be able to cross.
The lockdown in Khulna and the "movement restrictions" around Dhaka come at a time when the country is already going through a nationwide phase of "movement restrictions" that was announced on June 16 and is slated to go on till July 15.
According to the government notification, all tourist spots, resorts, community and entertainment centres were supposed to be closed, and all forms of public gathering were supposed to be banned.
However, apart from educational establishments, all economic activities have been going on at full swing.
Of the districts blocked off by the Cabinet Division circular, Gopalganj logged an alarmingly high positivity rate of 74 percent on June 20, while Rajbari had 58 percent.
Gazipur, Madaripur and Manikganj's daily positivity rates were 21 percent, 18 percent and 16 percent respectively.
Narayanganj's positivity rate was 10 percent.
RUSH IN KHULNA
In Khulna, all vehicular movement in and out of the district will be halted from today until June 28, said the district administration's circular. The arrival and departure of all trains to and from Khulna railway station will remain suspended, as will all vehicular movement, including that of battery-operated 'easy bikes', said the circular.
All shopping centres and businesses will be closed except for kitchen markets and convenience stores, which will operate from 7:00am till 2:00pm.
Hearing about the week-long lockdown in Khulna, people from all walks of life rushed to the markets in droves, throwing caution to the wind even while the district sees the worst of the pandemic.
Yesterday, 161 patients were receiving treatment at the 130-bed Dedicated Corona Hospital in Khulna Medical College Hospital. For the last five days, the average infection rate in the district had been 34 percent.
Awal Sheikh and his four classmates were buying panjabis from a new outlet of Signal near Shibbari Mor in Khulna city yesterday afternoon. No one was wearing masks.
While the group tried on the outfits, another group of five to six youths haggled over panjabis next to them. Unlike Awal and his friends, they had masks -- but the masks were pulled down to their chins.
When asked about this, one of the shoppers replied, "The suffocating atmosphere is making it difficult to wear a mask, even though there is a danger of being infected."
On average, half the shoppers were not seen wearing masks, even though the market authorities stapled signs saying "no mask, no sale" at the entrance of the outlet.
Visiting different areas of Khulna city including Dakbangla mor, Clay road, Nixon market, Boro Bazar, Picture Palace mor, Khulna Shopping Complex, Jail Tower, New market, it was seen that there were disinfectant tunnels in front of most markets. However, none of the tunnels worked.
A security guard in front of New Market said the disinfectant tunnel does not work as the authorities have not refilled the disinfectant in the last seven months.
Tofazzal Mia, a small business owner of Koyra upazila, came to Khulna Hawkers' Market yesterday to buy cosmetics for his shop.
He told our correspondent that he would not be able to come to Khulna for supplies during the lockdown, but that there would be a demand for cosmetics in the upazila markets.
[Our Khulna and Munshiganj correspondents contributed to this report]