Not much protection for police | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, March 27, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:54 PM, March 27, 2020

Not much protection for police

They live in crammed rooms amid risk of virus spread; most don’t have PPE

At least 30 beds for as many policemen are crammed into a dorm room of about 450sqft at Mohammadpur Police Camp in the capital.

The beds are not even three feet apart from each other.

Amid the coronavirus outbreak, little has been done for social distancing and improving hygiene there.

"If anyone gets the virus, the whole camp would be affected. We are worried," a policeman of the camp told The Daily Star, wishing anonymity.

The policeman said measures for washing hands and spraying disinfectants on uniform and boots were taken, but they still have to live there like that.

"What can we do? We can't afford a room for each," said the cop.

When this correspondent visited the camp on Wednesday around 11:00am, most of the policemen were out on duty. Their used uniforms and mosquito nets were seen hanging from the sticks meant for hanging the nets.

There has been no visible initiative to clean the room and spray disinfectants.

It is not like the authorities had made sure the policemen would not get infected whilst on duty either.

The cops are often on duty for more than 12 hours with no personal protective equipment (PPE).

"We managed masks and alcohol-based hand rubs on our own," said a policeman.

The picture was similar at other police barracks, like Rajarbagh Police Lines and Mill Barrack of Dhaka. Between 30 and 40 policemen were living in a single room there.

At Rajarbagh, handheld infrared thermometers were being used for checking body temperature of policemen entering the dorms, officials said on Wednesday.

The Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) has about 34,000 members, according to the officials.

Masudur Rahman, deputy commissioner of the DMP, told The Daily Star that they instructed officials to maintain hygiene, wash hands, and keep their rooms clean.

They have also asked the cops not to allow any guests, family members, and outsiders in the barracks, he added.

Cops at police stations are not much better off.

"We have received only four special suits today [Wednesday]. We do not know what will happen to other officials and in the coming days," an officer-in-charge of DMP's Lalbagh division told The Daily Star.

"Our officials have made arrangements for washing hands, wearing face masks, and gloves on their own and we have asked them to use the standard issue raincoats while on duty," the OC added.

Alongside their regular duties, officials at police stations have been tasked with getting information about people who returned from abroad recently and ensure that the returnees quarantine themselves at home.

Kh Mahid Uddin, deputy inspector general (DIG) of Khulna range, told this newspaper yesterday, "We have received a good number of masks, sanitisers, gloves and special suites from the PHQ today [Thursday]."

It would help a good number of policemen but they were trying to arrange some more from "local sources", he said.

"Besides, we have asked all field officials to use raincoats while on duty and visiting homes of returnees from abroad and hospitals," added the DIG.

Most field-level police officials were seen wearing masks on duty.

"We did not get the sanitisers and gloves as it is out of market. We come in close contact with a huge number of people daily. I do not know what is in our fate but I have to continue my job," said a traffic policeman, requesting anonymity.

However, Habibur Rahman, DIG of Dhaka range police, said they, making arrangements themselves, supplied all necessary materials for hand washing, and masks, sanitisers, and gloves to officers.

"But we are providing the special protection suits only to those officials working to find people who returned from abroad and ensure their quarantine," DIG Habib told The Daily Star on Tuesday.

Regarding the failure to provide PPE to policemen, a top official at the PHQ told The Daily Star on Tuesday, "We were not able to provide PPE to the officials as we did not get any support from the government."

Sohel Rana, assistant inspector general of the PHQ, told The Daily Star that they had taken steps to collect PPE on their own. "We would distribute the special protection suits to different police units gradually," he said.

Meanwhile, a number of returnees from abroad started communicating with police after the PHQ issued a circular asking them report to their local police stations.

Police officials are now requesting them to communicate over phone or send relatives as police officials do not have enough PPE.

"We are discouraging the returnees to come to the police station. Rather they can call us over phone," said a policeman at Adabor Police Station.

A banner was hung in front of the police station advising visitors to wash their hands before going in. They were allowing one visitor at a time.

From 8:00am to 2:00pm on Wednesday, the police station was visited by 25 returnees from countries like Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and mostly from India.

"We didn't get any PPE. But our policemen are wearing masks and gloves they managed on their own," Abdul Latif, officer-in-charge of Mohammadpur Police Station, told The Daily Star.

On Wednesday, Inspector General of Police (IGP) Mohammad Javed Patawary during a video conference with DIGs, metropolitan commissioners and district police officials asked lists be made of people who had returned home from abroad recently and home quarantining them.

The IGP asked cops to use PPE, hand sanitisers and gloves.

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